Super foods: cranberries

Posted on: 09 October 2018 by 50connect editorial

Super foods the buzz word of a thousand and one magazines and health shows. This week we look at some of facts about the humble cranberry.


Cranberries are unlike any other fruit in the world.  Its unique health benefits and refreshing, tart taste put it in a league of its own when it comes to healthy refreshment. 

Native Americans, long before the Pilgrims landed in North America in 1620, mixed deer meat and mashed cranberries to make pemmican -- a convenience food that kept for long periods of time. They also believed that cranberries had medicinal value, and were used by medicine men as an ingredient in poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds. Cranberry juice was a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing. The Delaware Indians in New Jersey used the cranberry as a symbol of peace.

Cranberries have had a variety of different names since their discovery. Eastern Indians called them "sassamanesh." Cape Cod Pequots and the South Jersey Leni-Lenape tribes named them "ibimi," or bitter berry. The Algonquins of Wisconsin called the fruit "atoqua." But it wasn't until German and Dutch settlers came up with "crane berry," because the vine blossoms resembled the neck, head and bill of a crane, that we arrive at what we know today as the cranberry.

The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America - the Concord grape and blueberry being the others. Cranberries were widely found in Massachusetts, as documented by the Pilgrims who settled there. Rumor has it that cranberries may have been served at the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth. Recipes using cranberries date back to the 1700s.

Documentation proves that the cranberry was grown and harvested in Dennis, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod), in 1816 - the first recorded yield in cranberry history.

Cranberry facts

  • The cranberry is one of only a handful of major fruits native to North America. Others include the blueberry and Concord grape.
  • The cranberry gets its name from Dutch and German settlers, who called it "crane berry." When the vines bloom in the late spring and the flowers' light pink petals twist back, they have a resemblance to the head and bill of a crane. Over time, the name was shortened to cranberry.
  • During the days of wooden ships and iron men, American vessels carried cranberries. Just as the English loved limes, American sailors craved cranberries. It was the cranberry's generous supply of vitamin C that prevented scurvy.
  • Native Americans used cranberries to make a survival cake known as pemmican. They also used the fruit in poultices and dyes.
  • Dennis, Massachusetts was the site of the first recorded cranberry cultivation in 1816.
  • American recipes containing cranberries date from the early 18th Century.
  • Legend has it that the Pilgrims may have served cranberries at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • During World War II, American troops required about one million pounds of dehydrated cranberries a year.
  • The hearty cranberry vine thrives in conditions that would not support most other crops: acid soil, few nutrients and low temperatures, even in summer.
  • It takes one ton or more of cranberry vines per acre to plant a bog.
  • Depending on the weather, cranberry blossoms last 10 to 12 days.
  • Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in water. They are grown on sandy bogs or marshes. Because cranberries float, some bogs are flooded when the fruit is ready for harvesting.
  • If all the cranberry bogs in North America were put together, they would comprise an area bigger than Manchester, approximately 47 square miles.
  • Cranberries are primarily grown in five states -- Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Another 5,500 acres are cultivated in Chile, Quebec, and British Columbia. There are nearly 1,000 cranberry growers in America. The 1996 harvest yielded more than 200 billion cranberries -- about 40 for every man, woman and child on the planet.
  • In 1996, cranberry growers in the United States harvested 4.84 million barrels of fruit, according to the US Department of Agriculture. End to end, that many berries would span more than 1.75 million miles.
  • Did you know that there are 440 cranberries in one pound? 4,400 cranberries in one gallon of juice? 440,000 cranberries in a 100-pound barrel?
  • If you strung all the cranberries produced in North America last year, they would stretch from Boston to Los Angeles more than 565 times.
  • Cranberries are sometimes used to flavor wines, but do not ferment as naturally as grapes, making them unsuitable for the traditional winemaking process. 
  • The great cranberry taste you love: it's also part of keeping your body healthy. Cranberry juice provides 130% of your Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin C in each delicious 8oz. glass. A body of research studies has revealed that Cranberry Juice helps to maintain urinary tract health, killing off unwanted bacteria and healing cystitis. 

What next?

If you fancy getting creative with your cranberries, you can take a look at this delicious cranberry meringue roulade.

At just 40 minutes prep time and 50 minutes in the oven, it's not going to consume the whole of your day.

Here's the full recipe cranberry meringue roulade.

cranberry meringue roulade

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