For Thanksgiving, I want to put the spotlight on a food used in many dishes on the Turkey Day menu—cranberries. Cranberries have a versatile flavor profile including a blend of sweet and tart taste that makes it easy to enjoy them in a variety of dishes, from sauces, juices and dressings to cheeses, chocolates and baked goods. Naturally, cranberries have a slightly pungent taste, so they are rarely eaten raw and go through a process that either helps to sweeten them or extract certain components of the plant to soften the sharpness.
Cranberries are a member of the heather family, with other berries like blueberries and bilberries as cousins. The most well-known and commonly grown species is the North American cranberry, formally named vaccinium macrocarpon. The cranberry is originally from New England and is currently grown throughout eastern regions of the United States and in some parts of Canada. Cranberry farmers harvest in September or October, which why they are typically enjoyed in the fall.
Historically, Native Americans used juice extracted from cranberries as dye for materials and the full berry as a dietary staple, even considered a survival food. Historic documentation indicates that Native Americans believed in the medicinal value of cranberries back in the 1600s when they used them to treat wounds and urinary tract infections—long before science caught up!
Now, cranberries have been formally studied for over 50 years for their role in preventing UTIs. They...
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