Berry Of The Week: Cranberries

cranberriesCranberries are now a staple at American Thanksgiving, but did you know these little red berries are a superfood? Packed with more nutritional benefits than you probably realize and with a long standing history, we want you to pick up some organic cranberries to snack on this summer! Don’t wait for Thanksgiving or think that your cranberry cocktail juice is enough!

History of Cranberries

In 1550, James White Norwood made reference to indians using cranberries. In James Rosier’s book “The Land of Virginia” there is an account of Europeans coming ashore and being met with indians bearing bark cups full of cranberries. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, there is a 1633 account of the husband of Mary Ring auctioning her cranberry-dyed petticoat for 16 shillings. In 1640′s “Key Into the Language” Roger Williams described cranberries, referring to them as “bearberries” because bears ate them.  In 1669, Captain Richard Cobb had a banquet in his house (to celebrate both his marriage to Mary Gorham and his election to the Convention of Assistance), serving wild turkey with sauce made from wild cranberries. In the 1672 book “New England Rarities Discovered” author John Josselyn described cranberries, writing:

“Sauce for the Pilgrims, cranberry or bearberry, is a small trayling plant that grows in salt marshes that are overgrown with moss. The berries are of a pale yellow color, afterwards red, as big as a cherry, some perfectly round, others oval, all of them hollow with sower (sic) astringent taste; they are ripe in August and September. They are excellent against the Scurvy. They are also good to allay the fervor of hoof diseases. The indians and English use them mush, boyling (sic) them with sugar for sauce to eat with their meat; and it is a delicate sauce, especially with roasted mutton. Some make tarts with them as with gooseberries.”

“The Compleat Cook’s Guide” published in 1683 made reference to cranberry juice. In 1703, cranberries were served at the Harvard University commencement dinner. In 1787, James Madison wrote Thomas Jefferson in France for background information on constitutional government to use at the Constitutional Convention. Jefferson sent back a number of books on the subject and in return asked for a gift of apples, pecans and cranberries. In 1796, cranberries were served at the first celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims, and Amelia Simmons (an American orphan) wrote a book entitled “American Cookery” which contained a recipe for cranberry tarts. In 1816, Henry Hall first comercially grew cranberries in East Dennis, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. In 1843, Eli Howes planted his own crop of cranberries on Cape Cod, using the “Howes” variety. In 1847, Cyrus Cahoon planted a crop of “Early Black” variety near Pleasant Lake, Harwich, Massachusetts. In 1860, Edward Watson, a friend of Henry David Thoreau wrote a poem called “The Cranberry Tart.”

Cranberry sales in the United States have traditionally been associated with holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Until the 1930s most of the crop was sold fresh.

With surplus cranberries and changing American households some enterprising growers began canning cranberries that were below-grade for fresh market. Competition between canners was fierce because profits were thin. The Ocean Spray cooperative was established in 1930 through a merger of three primary processing companies: Ocean Spray Preserving company, Makepeace Preserving Co, and Cranberry Products Co. The new company was called Cranberry Canners, Inc. and used the Ocean Spray label on their products. Since the new company represented over 90% of the market, it would have been illegal (cf. antitrust) had attorney John Quarles not found an exemption for agricultural cooperatives. As of 2006, about 65% of the North American industry belongs to the Ocean Spray cooperative. (The percentage may be slightly higher in Canada than in the U.S.)

A turning point for the industry occurred on November 9, 1959, when the secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Arthur S. Flemming announced that some of the 1959 crop was tainted with traces of the herbicide aminotriazole. The market for cranberries collapsed and growers lost millions of dollars.[7][38] However, the scare taught the industry that they could not be completely dependent on the holiday market for their products: they had to find year-round markets for their fruit. They also had to be exceedingly careful about their use of pesticides.

After the aminotriazole scare, Ocean Spray reorganized and spent substantial sums on product development. New products such as cranberry apple juice blends were introduced, followed by other juice blends.

A Federal Marketing Order that is authorized to synchronize supply and demand was approved in 1962. The order has been renewed and modified slightly in subsequent years, but it has allowed for more stable marketing. The market order has been invoked during six crop years: 1962 (12%), 1963 (5%), 1970 (10%), 1971 (12%), 2000 (15%), and 2001 (35%). Even though supply still slightly exceeds demand, there is little will to invoke the Federal Marketing Order out of the realization that any pullback in supply by U.S. growers would easily be filled by Canadian production.

Where Can I Buy Cranberries?

You can buy cranberries at your local grocery store or try a farmer’s market!

Organic vs. Conventional

So should you buy those conventional cranberries at your local Meijer or head to a Whole Foods Market to get organic?

We recommend choosing the safe option and picking organic cranberries. They are a bit more expensive, but if you care about our planet and your health, it is the right choice. Organic cranberries use less non-renewable resources, eliminate the use of toxic chemicals that harm our environment and health of farmers, conserves resources, and values health.

If you simply can’t afford to choose all organic fruits and vegetables, be sure to clean your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. Scrub using a vegetable brush, soak in either salt water or vinegar, and peel the skin off whenever possible.

Nutritional Benefits

While familiar nutrients like vitamin C and fiber play a very important role in cranberry’s health benefits, it’s the amazing array of phytonutrients in cranberries that has gotten the special attention of health researchers.

Equally important in the cranberry research has been the finding that isolated phytonutrients in cranberry do not account for the same degree of health benefit as phytonutrients taken as a complete, synergistic group. What this research finding means is simple: it’s the whole cranberry that supports our health best.

When speaking in general terms about the health benefits of cranberries, it is also important to know that the most commonly consumed form of this food is juice processed from the berries and typically produced by adding generous amounts of sugar. This form of cranberry cannot provide you with cranberry’s full phytonutrient benefits. The cranberry “presscake”–or what is left behind in terms of skins and flesh after the juice has been processed out–typically contains the bulk of the phytonutrients when evaluated in lab studies.

Cranberries also protect from Urinary Tract Infections, have anti-inflammatory benefits, help your immune system and cardiovascular system, have many antioxidants, help your digestive system, and even have anti-cancer benefits.

Some Yummy & Healthy Recipes

*Cranberry-Apple Coffee Cake

12 servings

Active Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes (including cooling time)

Ingredients

Topping

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen, thawed, chopped (see Tip)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped peeled tart apple, such as Granny Smith (about 1 large)
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail, orange juice or apple juice

Cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
  2. To prepare topping: Whisk brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in a medium nonreactive saucepan (see Note) until combined. Stir in cranberries, apple and juice. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and the berries soften, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  3. To prepare cake: Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Beat oil, butter and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, first on medium speed, then on medium-high, until well combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, beating until the mixture is light in color and well blended. Add egg and beat until the batter is smooth, about 1 minute longer. With the mixer on low speed, beat in half the flour mixture until just incorporated. Gradually beat in milk and vanilla until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until a smooth batter forms, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the edges. Spread the topping in an even layer over the batter; do not stir.
  4. Bake the cake on the middle rack until the top is puffed in places and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (the fruit topping will still be moist), 40 to 50 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over the top. Transfer the pan to a wire rack; let stand until cooled to warm, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan sides and cut the cake into wedges.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. | Equipment: 9-inch springform pan
  • Tip: To make quick work of chopping cranberries, place whole berries in a food processor and pulse a few times until the berries are coarsely chopped.
  • Note: A nonreactive pan–stainless steel, enamel-coated or glass–is necessary when cooking acidic foods, such as tomato or lemon, to prevent the food from reacting with the pan. Reactive pans, such as aluminum and cast-iron, can impart an off color and/or off flavor in acidic foods.

Nutrition

Per serving: 268 calories; 8 g fat ( 3 g sat , 3 g mono ); 26 mg cholesterol; 47 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 113 mg sodium; 114 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (20% daily value)

Carbohydrate Servings: 3

Exchanges: 3 other carb, 1 fat (mono)

*Cranberry-Nut Mini Loaves with Flaxseed

3 mini loaves, 8 slices each

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 3/4 hours (including cooling time)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 oranges
  • Orange juice, if needed
  • 1/3 cup whole flaxseeds, (see Ingredient note)
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, or pecans (2 ounces), divided

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat three 6-by-3-inch mini-loaf pans (2-cup capacity) with cooking spray.
  2. Pulse cranberries in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Grate orange zest to measure 2 tablespoons. Squeeze juice, adding orange juice, if necessary, to measure 3/4 cup.
  3. Grind flaxseeds into coarse meal in a clean dry coffee grinder or blender. Transfer to a large bowl. Add whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to blend.
  4. Whisk egg, sugar, oil, vanilla and the orange zest and juice in a medium bowl. Add to the flour mixture and mix with a rubber spatula just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in cranberries and 1/4 cup nuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the loaves with the remaining 1/4 cup nuts. Place the pans on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake the loaves until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen edges and turn the loaves out onto the rack to cool completely before slicing or wrapping.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Store well wrapped at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. | Equipment: Three 6-by-3-inch mini-loaf pans
  • Ingredient Note: Renowned for their nutritional benefits–fiber, lignans (phytochemicals associated with reduced risk of cancer) and omega-3 fatty acids–flaxseeds also contribute a delicious nutty taste to baked goods.
  • Flaxseeds can be found in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets and in natural-foods stores. The seeds must be ground for your body to take advantage of the nutrients. Ground seeds are highly perishable, so grind them just before using. Store whole flaxseeds in the refrigerator or freezer.

Nutrition

Per slice: 120 calories; 5 g fat ( 0 g sat , 2 g mono ); 9 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 79 mg sodium; 55 mg potassium.

Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 fat (mini-loaf slice)

Information courtesy of World’s Healthiest Foods, Wikipedia, and recipes courtesy of Eating Well.

You may also like:

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