Crazy for Cranberries

Cranberries

We have the perfect recipe for your craving for cranberries this season (Photo Credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

It is the holiday season and it seems like everyone has gone crazy for cranberries.  These small red berries, which grow on short shrubs and vines, are nutritious and delicious.  While most of us are familiar with the sauce made from cranberries that is a staple of Thanksgiving dinner, the other ways that cranberries can enrich our lives during the holiday season may not be as familiar.  Here is a look at the history of this small red superfruit and some great ways you can use it to brighten up your holiday season.

Cranberry 101

Cranberries are found in the cooler parts of Northern America and grow on very short shrubs or on long trailing vines.  The shrubs rarely grow as tall as 1 foot but the vines can be as much as 7 feet long.  They are often found in boggy areas.  Cranberry plants have pink flowers with a distinctive shape which grow into white berries.  As the berries ripen, they turn to the deep dark red color most commonly associated with them.   Most commercially raised cranberries are made into juice, jam, and sauce but you may also be able to find fresh cranberries in the produce section of the supermarket during the holiday season.

Cranberries have a very tart flavor that may not be appealing to many people on its own.  This is why cranberry juice is often sweetened or mixed with other juices to make a cocktail before sale.  This makes it possible for people to get the health benefits of cranberries in a way that is still pleasing to their palette.  Unfortunately, adding sugar to make cranberry juice more taste-bud friendly can also make it much less healthy than in its unsweetened form.

Raw cranberries are considered by some to be a superfruit because of their nutritional content.  In a 3.5 oz serving there are 46 calories, 4.6 g of fiber, and a wide range of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B, E, C and K, manganese, iron, and magnesium.   They are also a source of antioxidants which are believed to be beneficial for the cardiovascular system, to support the immune system, and to battle free-radicals that can cause cancer.

Holiday Uses

The most obvious way to use cranberries this holiday season is on your table.  Almost every holiday meal goes great with cranberry sauce and if you are looking for a way to make your holiday meal a little tastier, try making your own cranberry sauce with one of these great recipes.

Cranberries also make a great addition to baked goods.  Try these scrumptious holiday recipes featuring the dark red orbs.

In addition, cranberries also make a great addition to many other dishes.

 

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