The cranberry, called atoca by the Amerindians, is beginning to make its way timidly into the modern diet. Yet this small red berry is worth getting to know both for its nutritional qualities and its tanginess, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to many dishes!
Cranberries grow on bushes with an extensive root system. The small berries—produced once the plant is three years old—are traditionally harvested in fall using one of two methods:
- The first consists of flooding the fields before harvest. The next day, agitators are used to separate the berries from the bushes, after which they float to the surface. Trucks equipped with pumps then gather them and transport them to the processing plants. They are generally used in sauces, juices and condiments.
- The second consists of using a mechanical picker that looks like a lawn mower. The berries are swept off the bushes into a bin on the back. This method is used for fresh cranberries as well as those used in baked goods.
Know How to Pick Them!
Choose fleshy and firm cranberries. Discard those that are soft, shrivelled, dull, discoloured or have white spots on them.
High in antioxidants
Cranberries rank second for antioxidant activity, just behind blueberries and ahead of strawberries, red grapes and many other berries.
While few studies have looked at cranberries’ effectiveness in fighting cancer, the scientific community agrees that a diet high in fruits and vegetables could reduce the risk of some cancers. And berries—primarily blueberries, raspberries and cranberries—are known to be especially high in antioxidants. A great reason to add this bright red berry to your diet!
Prevents cardiovascular disease
Cranberries are believed to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, which also reduce bad cholesterol (LDL).
A source of vitamin C
The amount of vitamin C in cranberries depends on their form. Dried cranberries contain very little vitamin C, while 125 ml (1/2 cup) of raw cranberries meets 11% of the daily requirement for this vitamin. Cranberry cocktail is enriched with vitamin C and meets 100% of the requirement. However, it is also high in sugar, so it is best to drink it in moderation.
Prevents urinary infections
Cranberry juice helps prevent urinary infections but apparently does not cure them—so there’s no point drinking it in great quantities when you have an infection! Certain compounds contained in cranberries are believed to prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
Did You Know?
Canada is the world’s second leading cranberry producer. Here’s an interesting fact: 90% of Canadian cranberries are grown in Quebec! Quebec also grows the most organic cranberries.
Because of the dehydration process, dried cranberries contain more antioxidants than fresh ones. Whether you’re on the golf course, tennis court, hiking trail or simply out for a drive, they keep well, are easy to carry and make a convenient, healthy snack. But they are relatively high in sugar, so be sure to eat them in moderation.
- Add fresh cranberries, red onion, green pepper and grated carrot to an orzo or bulgur salad and drizzle with olive oil for a delicious lunch or side dish!
- Sprinkle Brie cheese with dried cranberries and almonds, and add a touch of maple syrup. Warm in the oven and serve on crackers.
- On a bed of endives, place sliced avocado with dried cranberries and green apple slices. Drizzle with white wine and Dijon mustard vinaigrette.
- Quick ‘n’ easy recipe: Stuff a deboned chicken breast with fresh or frozen cranberries, onions and Cheddar cheese.
- For hors d'oeuvres, place a mixture of dried cranberries, diced pears, shallots, maple syrup and walnuts on crackers.
- Stuff yellow peppers with a mixture of dried cranberries, rice, ground veal, Asiago cheese and fresh parsley. Easy, colourful and delicious!
- Do not leave cranberries at room temperature, as they will quickly spoil. Refrigerate them instead.
- Cranberries freeze well, without added sugar. Use them frozen!
- When cooking cranberries, place them in a saucepan with a little water. Be sure to cover the pan, as the berries will swell and burst!
Because of their acidity, it is better to use fresh cranberries in baked or cooked foods like muffins and cakes, as well as sauces, compotes, pies and jellies.