Enjoy the Bounty of the Harvest
With the weather changing for the worse across much of the United States, fall is the time of year when most of us will gather around the table for traditional family meals. Family meals are always a good idea. Good food, enjoyed together in an unhurried atmosphere, is one of life’s great joys. Fall also happens to be the best time of the year to enjoy the bounty of the end-of-year harvest. Winter squash, pumpkin, pomegranates, cranberries—they’re all at their peak now, so there’s no better time to take advantage of these fresh fruits and vegetables.
With the exception of pomegranates, these foods are distinctly All-American, too. In fact, they’re more authentically American than, say, hot dogs, or even apple pie. Hot dogs are a German import, after all. Apple pie consists of fruit that was introduced to this continent by European settlers, and it’s irresistible flavor depends on the addition of exotic spices imported from distant lands.
Cranberries, on the other hand, are native to North America. They also happen to be one of our best superfoods. They’re loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and other essential nutrients. Cranberries are related to bilberries, blueberries, and huckleberries. Huckleberry Finn—an icon of American literature—was named after the humble huckleberry. All of these native fruits provide excellent nutritional value. Fresh cranberries were reportedly offered to some of the first English settlers to step ashore on the new continent, by friendly Native Americans.
Most cranberries in America are processed into juice or canned cranberry sauce. Only a tiny portion are sold as whole, fresh cranberries. Cranberry juice is credited with helping prevent urinary bladder infections, and research has shown that it may actually help prevent disease-causing bacteria from adhering to the lining of the bladder, thwarting infections.
Cranberries are exceptionally tart, which accounts for the fact that cranberry juice features more added sugar than the average soft drink. For this reason, it may be better to stick with whole cranberries. In a 17th century book, colonist John Josselyn noted that cranberries are “excellent against the Scurvy,” and that the berries have a “sower, astringent” flavor.
Both observations are accurate. Because of their high vitamin C content, cranberries do indeed keep scurvy (vitamin C deficiency disease) at bay. They’re also quite sour, which is why they are usually cooked with sugar. This year, try adding a small handful of fresh berries (discard any that are not completely firm) to your apple pie. They add beautiful bursts or color and flavor.
A single cup of raw cranberries supplies about 4.6 grams of fiber, 16% of your daily requirement for vitamin C and 17% of your requirement for the essential trace mineral, manganese. Feel free to share your favorite cranberry recipe!