Now that it is November, we start to turn our thoughts to Thanksgiving. Oh Thanksgiving! It is my favorite holiday. You get together with family and friends and eat great food without the pressure of getting the perfect gift. The days are cooler so you can snuggle inside or go out and play in the leaves. It is just the perfect time of year.
And my favorite, FAVORITE food this time of year is cranberries. They come to the farm stands here fresh from Bandon, Oregon so I guess I am little spoiled. Now because I love to buy them fresh and put them in just about anything, it kills me a little when someone tells me that the only cranberries they have ever eaten come in a gelatinous mass out of a can. There is so much more to cranberries than that! So this is my little ode to cranberries and why you should love them too.
Cranberries are tart red berries native to North America. Much like grapes, they grow on a vine that can produce berries year after year indefinitely. Besides food, they have traditionally been used for dyes and medicines as well.
Cranberries are not grown in water but at harvest time fields are flooded allowing the cranberries to float on top of the water for easier harvesting.
Where to find it?
Cranberries are a fall crop. You may be lucky to find it fresh at the local farmer’s market or farm stand but you can usually find it at the grocery store in small bags around the holidays. Cranberry juice and dried cranberries are available year round in most areas.
How to pick it?
Usually fresh cranberries are prepackaged but if you happen to find yourself choosing you own, pick berries that are a deep red and firm. The berries ripen from white to red so you want the darker ones.
How to store it?
Store fresh cranberries in their original package for 3 to 4 weeks in the fridge. Only wash them before you use them. Cranberries also freeze really well and last 10 to 12 months so stock up to last until next year!
How to cook it?
Oh where to begin! Dried cranberries can be used in trail mix, muffins, oatmeal, etc. just like you would use raisins so I’ll focus on some fresh cranberry recipes here.
Cranberry Sauce (pictured)- my favorite sauce recipe! I like mine tart and tangy but you can add sugar to taste.
Clean Eating Cranberry Banana Smoothie photo and recipe from The Gracious Pantry
Fresh Cranberry Salsa from Craftaholics Anonymous
Cranberry Mustard photo and recipe from Feasting at Home – the recipe slathers it on a grilled turkey brie sandwich. Yum!
Cranberry Vinaigrette from The Yummy Life
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries from Healthy Delicious
Sweet Potato Cranberry Bake from Taste of Home
Apple Walnut Cranberry Squash photo and recipe from Paleo Leap
Slow Cooker Ginger Cranberry Pork Roast from Mama & Baby Love
Cranberry Flax Cookies from An Edible Mosaic
Baked Pears with Honey, Cranberries, and Pecans photo and recipe from This Gal Cooks
Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants. There is also anecdotal and some research evidence that cranberries can help with urinary tract infections (UTI).1,2 The research basically shows that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. If you have recurrent UTI and want to try adding more cranberry to your diet then go for it! Just do not replace medical care with a cranberry remedy.
A variety of fruit in your diet is always good and cranberries are certainly a flavorful way to do that. Unfortunately the one thing you have to watch out for with cranberries in sugar. Sugar is usually added to cranberry dishes to balance out the tart flavor so just pay attention to servings.
Per 1 Cup (abt 100 g) whole berries: 46 Calories; 0.13g Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 2mg Sodium; 11.97g Carb; 3.6g Fiber; 4.27g Sugar; 0.46g Protein; 80mg Potassium; 14mg Vitamin C; 5mcg Vitamin K; 63mcg Vitamin A (Source: USDA National Nutrient database)
- Hisano M., er al. “Cranberries and lower urinary tract infection prevention”. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2012 Jun; 67(6):661–667.
- Mathers MJ., et al. “Myth or truth. Cranberry juice for prophylaxis and treatment of recurrent urinary tract infection”. Urologe A. 2009 Oct; 48(10):1203-5,1207-9.