Ten Questions: Cranberries

They are freshly harvested as we read this article. Cranberries ripen and are picked from October to December ... usually October. This tart little fruit is especially popular around Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. They are full of nutrients and besides tasting good, they are good for you.

I have ten questions along with ten answers about cranberries. When you have read this you will be able to amaze your friends with you knowledge of this lovely little fruit.

01. What are cranberries?

Cranberries are one of only three fruits native to the Americas. They belong to the Heather family. The fruit is a small, round, red berry Each berry has four centrally located tiny seeds. Small pockets of air inside the berries make them float when ripe. The same air pockets allow them to bounce. If a ripe cranberry will not bounce it probably is no good.

02. How do cranberries grow?

Cranberries are grown in sandy or marshy bogs. The soil is irrigated all through the growing season to keep the ground moist. When the berries are ripe the bogs are flooded. Because ripe cranberries float this makes it easier to harvest them. Some of these cranberry beds are more than 100 years old and still producing.

03. Why are they called cranberries?

The best guess is that early settlers to the United States thought the flowers resembled the head and neck of a crane. They called them craneberries and that evolved into the word cranberry.

04. What were some early uses for cranberries?

Food is of course a primary use. Native Americans pounded the cranberries into a paste and mixed the paste with deer meat to make a cake-like food called pemmican. They also used it as a dye to put red color into whatever needed to be red. American sailors used the berries in the same way that British sailors used limes. They took up much less room and prevented scurvy as well or better than the limes. They had other medicinal uses as well.

05. Were cranberries actually served at the first Thanksgiving feast?

While there is no way to know for sure what foods were served that day, it is a safe bet that cranberries were on the menu.

06. Is cranberry sauce the only way to eat cranberries?

Cranberries can be used for almost anything. Sauce and cranberry jelly are the most common. But they are used in baking too. Cakes, breads, add them to apple pie for a new taste, ice cream are just a few ways to use them. Add dried cranberries to salads. Cranberry juice is a tangy, refreshing drink. If you get the kind using non-sugar sweetener it does not have a lot of calories. They even use cranberries to add flavor to wines. The berries do not ferment well so wine is too difficult but they add a tangy flavor to other kinds of wine. Dried cranberries are often found in trail mixes or they are good to snack on by themselves.

07. Do Americans eat a lot of cranberries?

Americans eat about 400 million pounds of cranberries every year. At Thanksgiving we consume about 80 million pounds of that.

08. How can you use cranberries medicinally?

The easiest way is just to eat them. Cranberry juice has long been used to treat symptoms of kidny and bladder problems. Native Americans used to make poultices to draw poisons from arrow wounds. Some of the things cranberry juice is good for is to prevent dental cavities and periodontal disease, treating and perhaps preventing Alzheimer's disease, and easing some cancers. Some of the cancers that have responded well to treatment with cranberries are prostate and breast cancer. Food-borne pathogens are greatly reduced when cranberries are introduced. The high amount of flavinoids in cranberries help treat arteriosclerosis and prevent the arteries from clogging. Cranberry juice keeps the bacteria that causes peptic ulcers from adhering to the stomach lining allowing the stomach to heal faster. As a matter of fact all bacterial problems can benefit from using cranberries.

09. Can you eat raw cranberries?

You can but they are extremely tart and dry your mouth. For snacking it is best to use dried cranberries.

10. How do you store cranberries?

Keep them in a tightly closed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two months. Or you can freeze them for up to a year. Do not wash them until right before cooking.

I have a favorite way to cook cranberries that I would like to share. You will need
a 12 ounce bag of cranberries
1 cup of sugar (I use Nutrasweet instead of regular sugar)
1 cup of water (some people add orange juice but I like water)

I put them all into a saucepan or even the crockpot. A quick stir and put the lid on. Cook over medium heat. If you hear a popping noise that means the cranberries are popping open... that is a good thing. Check from time to time when they start to pop and lower the heat if necessary. If they are in the slow cooker just wait to see when they are all popped open. Once they are the form you like either serve them hot or put in a covered dish and place in the refrigerator to eat cold.

I would love to know if anyone else has a favorite recipe for cranberries. Let us know.


  1. I have two cranberry bushes on my allotment, the ground isn't boggy and they have never been submerged in water but they seem to be doing ok...maybe they have been grafted onto a different root stock or are some sort of hybrid.

    I like to make cranberry cheesecake, muffins and simply juice my cranberries.

    1. I would love to have a good cranberry cheesecake recipe. (Hint, hint) Thank you for commenting.

  2. I bought cranberries at my corner produce stand (unrefrigerated)and have just realized that they are over-ripe, perhaps verging on rotten(?). Not all of them, but certainly quite a few. Mooshy, easily squashed. I am only using this for cranberry orange relish, they will boiled and popped anyway, but I'm unsure about using cranberries that are soooo ripe. Does anyone have any experience with this? I've NEVER seen cranberries in this condition, but I usually get them at the grocery store, where they stay refrigerated.

    1. I taught my children when they were learning to cook that if it does not look right or smell right you should probably toss it. Cranberries are fairly inexpensive so perhaps you should replace them. Did you try the bounce test? Take one berry and try to bounce it. if it bounces it is good; if not toss them.


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