If you have been following my blog for a while now, you know I’m obsessed with cranberries! I even found delicious ways to enjoy cranberries in summer recipes. Last month, I had the most amazing opportunity to visit cranberry bogs in New Jersey….and now I am even MORE obsessed.
I’ve shared before the many benefits of cranberries. Bioactive compounds found in cranberries help maintain a healthy heart by improving blood cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure and decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress. And cranberries have been used for centuries to help prevent UTIs.
During my visit to Pine Barrens Native Fruits, hosted by The Cranberry Institute, I learned that these heart-healthy gems are one of the oldest native fruits in the United States, along with blueberries and concord grapes. In fact, because of their vitamin C content, cranberries were used to prevent scurvy in the 1600s.
Let me tell you how cranberries grow-it was so cool to see! The farm I visited was a seventh-generation farm in the pine barrens in New Jersey; this is land along the coast with sandy soil that allows cranberries to grow because unlike most plants you would use in a garden, cranberries thrive in the low-pH environment of sandy soil.
Cranberries are grown on vines in bogs by the millions. I was able to walk in these bogs, surrounded by my favorite fruit! Cranberries are perennial, surviving year after year. The farmers flood the cranberries with water during harvest, and also to protect the fruit during the harsh winter months. This makes it look like the cranberries are growing in water, but they actually grow on low-lying vines on dry land.
On some farms, the fruit is harvested with floating harvesters that literally rake up the cranberries from the water. A job that used to take 600 people to harvest is done so much more efficiently now with this technology.
Another cool fact about cranberries is that honey bees help pollinate the cranberries. This farm partners with bee farmers. The bees make honey and simultaneously help with the cranberry production!
After learning all of this about cranberries, I know I am going to be eating this fruit so much more often. It’s so healthy and grown close to home (in the U.S.!), which makes me confident that all those amazing nutrients are intact unlike many fruits that have to travel for thousands of miles to get to my local grocery store.
Do you know that 1/5 of the cranberries consumed in the United States are consumed around one day—Thanksgiving? While I love that people are consuming this healthy, disease-fighting fruit on Thanksgiving, it makes me sad that this superstar fruit isn’t consumed more often. It has so many amazing antioxidants! It’s one of the healthiest fruits you can consume!
I challenge you to find a way to incorporate cranberries in your diet every week. They truly are versatile. Try them as:
Go crazy for cranberries with me!
By Kelly Springer, RD, MS, CDN