Cranberries are native to the swampy regions of both the temperate and arctic zones of North America and Europe. Because they grow on slender, curved stalks, suggesting the neck of a crane, they were named “crane-berry,” or “cranberry.”
Long before the first colonists arrived in this country the cranberry was in common use by the Indians. The Pilgrims found them in the low marshes near the shore on the Cape Cod peninsula, and the women preserved them as a delicacy and served them with wild turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.
Cultivation of the cranberry began early in the nineteenth century. The earliest records show that the business was largely carried on by retired seamen. Howe and McFarlin were the names of two of these men, and important varieties of cranberries are named for them. By 1870, a flourishing business had developed. It was recorded in 1832 that ”Captain Henry Hall of Barnstable, Massachusetts, had then cultivated the cranberry for twenty years,” and that “Mr. F. A. Hayden of Lincoln, Massachusetts, gathered from his farm in 1830, 400 bushels of cranberries which brought him in the Boston market $600.”
It has been said that the old clipper ships out of Gloucester, New Bedford, and the “Down East” ports carried supplies of raw cranberries in casks so that the sailors could help themselves. They did this to prevent scurvy, just as the sailors of England and Southern Europe used limes to prevent this disease.
Cranberries grow on low, thick vines in a bog. The bogs are built on peat swamps that have been cleared, drained, and leveled. Water must be available and arranged so that the bog can be drained or flooded at the appropriate time. The surface, usually sand, on top of a subsoil that will hold moisture, must be level so the bog can be covered with water to a uniform depth when necessary. A cranberry bog takes three to five years to come into full production.
There are only five states that produce the greater supply of cranberries for market. They are, in order of production: Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Washington, and Oregon. The berries are marketed from September through March, and the peak months are October, November, and December.
The quality of the berry is determined by its roundness and size, and from its color, which varies from light to dark crimson, depending on the degree of maturity. Some varieties of cranberries are more olive-shaped or oblong. They have a fresh, plump appearance combined with a high luster and firmness. Avoid a shriveled, dull, soft-appearing berry.
Cranberries have a heavy acid content, and therefore should not be eaten too frequently. They increase the acidity of the urine. Be cause of their extremely tart taste, people drown them in sugar syrup, which makes them unfit for human consumption. They are best if cooked first; then add raisins and a little honey.
One of the finest therapeutic uses for cranberries is as a remedy for rectal disturbances, piles, hemorrhoids, and inflammation of the rectal pouch.
NUTRIENTS IN ONE POUND
Vitamin A: 182I.U.
Ascorbic acid: 55mg