Cranberries were likely a part of the Thanksgiving tradition dating all the way back to the very first one. Native Americans ate dried or fresh cranberries and they used cranberries for dye and medicinal purposes. They also used cranberries to make pemmican – a mixture of berries, dried meat, and fat. Pemmican was a common nutritional dish that could be stored for months. Cranberry sauce became commercially available in its familiar canned form in 1941. These jellied cranberries can now be sold year round. Dried, sweetened cranberries, or “craisins” are also available year round and make a great addition to stuffing and salads. Fresh and frozen cranberries can be found in abundance this time of year. The festive red color and nutrients make them a great addition to many dishes. They also make a great garland for indoor or outdoor trees and other greenery.
Today, cranberries are commonly used in a variety of foods and juices. They are high in Vitamin C and a good source of fiber. Cranberries contain phytochemicals and, as part of a healthy diet, may be associated with certain health benefits like reduced risk of chronic disease. Research on the effectiveness of cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections is inconsistent and it should be noted that cranberry juice may interact with some medications, so consult a health care professional.
Check out this video to make a simple cranberry sauce to add to your Thanksgiving table this year.
Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association: https://www.cranberries.org/history
Bulletin #4308, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Cranberries: https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/4308e/
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent III
University of Florida/IFAS Extension
North Florida Research and Education Center
155 Research Road, Quincy, FL