Dietribes: The Cranberries

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"¢ From what I can gather, "The cranberry, along with the blueberry and Concord grape, is one of North America's three native fruits that are commercially grown. Cranberries were first used by Native Americans, who discovered the wild berry's versatility as a food, fabric dye and healing agent." Now, of course, cranberries have become a staple of traditional Thanksgiving dinners. Though it is debatable whether cranberries were present at the "first Thanksgiving," if they were it's likely they were not served in a sugar-sweetened sauce to which we have so wonderfully grown accustomed.

"¢ According to NPR, "natural bogs evolved in Massachusetts from glacial deposits, which, over time, filled up with water and decaying matter. The resulting layers of sand and organic material comprise the ideal soil for cranberries. Last month in Plymouth County, Mass., the red-dotted landscape was evidence of thousands of years of geological evolution." Although perhaps not for long.

"¢ Early cranberry innovator John Webb (a.k.a. Peg Legged John) would pour the cranberries down the stairs rather than carry them (on account of his havin' a peg leg an' all). The good cranberries would bounce down the stairs while the bad berries that were soft wouldn't - voila! The "bouncing principle" is still used to this day to separate the good cranberries from the bad (a process currently untested on humans).

"¢ Cranberries, despite their perfect shape and vibrant color, cannot be easily enjoyed like blueberries and grapes. Raw cranberries are terribly sour and bitter, and are nearly always paired with sugar or other sweeteners - in some cases, raisins.

"¢ Still, don't let that extra step of preparation thwart your Cran-sumption. Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, research indicates they may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, urinary tract infections, gum disease and ulcers. They're also high in vitamins A and C and in potassium.

"¢ Craisins (featured above) are not a rip off of the California Raisins because, obviously, they can't sing. But some Cranberries can.

"¢ A far cry from Thanksgivings of yore, it seems the cost of this year's traditional feast, surprise surprise, is on the rise.

"¢ Anxiously awaiting Thursday's feast? Need to see your cranberries right now? Take a gander at the live bog cam from Ocean Spray. I'm not sure if there's ever any action ... although since this is harvest season, there might be.

"¢ If I cannot feature an eating contest, then I most assuredly must present a list of related festivals (all of which have sadly passed us by this year). At the Warren Cranberry Festival a contestant may become Cranberry Royalty after being judged "100%" on an interview with judges in regards to personality, charm, grooming, poise, posture, past achievements and speaking ability ...and a 5 minute cranberry food demonstration. Of course, there are also festivals in Bandon, Nantucket, Chatsworth and other places for you to enjoy. Has anyone been before?

Feel free to discuss making your upcoming Cranberry-related yummies or any turkey-day plans below. Happy Thanksgiving!

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

November 26, 2008 - 6:28am
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