Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cranberries

No, not the Cranberries, though I do really enjoy their album No Need to Argue, this blog is, in fact, about the little red superfruit packed with fiber and antioxidants. I was inspired by my two recipes recently that both involved cranberries, the pumpkin bread and the shredded Brussels sprouts mixture

First off, there are many health benefits to cranberries, as I mentioned above. Pure cranberry juice and eating dried cranberries have been shown to prevent and relieve various infections, making it a natural antibacterial that, when consumed on a regular basis, can act as an alternative to antibiotics. Cranberries are also an anti-inflammatory.

But that isn't why I really wanted to look into cranberries. I wanted to know how cranberries became associated with Thanksgiving. If one buys into the fairy tale about the First Thanksgiving (and it is a fairy tale, believe me), then it seems logical that we would eat cranberries along with turkeys and blah-blah-blah because that's what the Pilgrims ate. Yeah, no.

I mean, yes, the Pilgrims probably did eat cranberries because they found them growing all over Cape Cod, but why would, say, Virginians eat cranberries? Or Floridians? If the idea of the early real Thanksgiving feasts was to give thanks for the local bounty, cranberries would have no place outside of their native region. I've always heard that turkeys being a tradition came from turkey farmers trying to push their product, and I believe it. Maybe the same thing happened with the cranberry?

The world may never know. At least, I may never know. All of the website I find simply say "Native Americans probably shared cranberries with the Pilgrims, so that must be why it's a tradition." The problem with this is that this is not how traditions are actually born. Cranberries are harvested in the fall, which also happens to be when Americans celebrate their Thanksgiving, so I suspect this plus clever marketing is why we eat cranberries every November.

Since I can't seem to actually get a satisfactory answer to my question "how did the cranberry become a Thanksgiving staple," I will share with you some interesting facts.
  1. The name cranberry comes from "craneberry" because early settlers allegedly thought the flowers looked like the heads of cranes. The native people tended to call them names that translated to "bitter berry."
  2. History credits Henry Hall for first farming cranberries in 1816.
  3. It is claimed that ripe cranberries bounce. (I need to test this.)
  4. Native Americans used cranberries to dye fabric in addition to using them in food and medicine.
Okay, so there aren't very many facts, but I'll bet the average person wasn't aware of at least one, if not all, of them before reading this blog.

And now you know a little more about this traditional Thanksgiving food. Feel free to talk about it over your own feast. And, by all means, direct people back to this blog. Seeing is believing!

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