First discovered in North America, the cranberry is now equally at home in Europe and Asia as well as North and South America. Cranberries are as important in the US and Canada as are apples in Germany. A traditional accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinners, they are cultivated on a large scale today.
The cranberry belongs to the Ericaceae family and, more precisely, to the genus Vaccininium. The very short, evergreen bushes quickly occupy large plots of ground. The shape of the small, dark-pink-and-white blossoms bear a certain resemblance to cranes, which is where the name “cranberry” (from “crane berry”) originated. Cranberries are also known in Germany under the names Kranbeere, Moosbeere and Kulturpreiselbeere.
Rich in vitamins C and A, cranberries also contain substantial quantities of anthocyanins (secondary plant substances) and minerals, and are thus ideal ingredients in fruit juices, fruit beverages and smoothies. The berries are also valued for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. North American Indians are known to have used cranberries for medicinal purposes – for compresses or to draw poison from wounds, for example. Their juice was also used as a dye.
Cranberries stand out by virtue of their bright red colour and relatively hard flesh. Four air chambers are located inside each berry.
Freshly picked cranberries are so sour that they are hardly even edible. When allowed to dry, their fructose content increases, making them somewhat sweeter, yet still relatively tart.
… that the most common method employed in harvesting cranberries is to flood the huge growing beds with water, allowing the berries to be stripped from the bushes by the flowing water. Thanks to their air chambers, they float on the surface, from where they can be skimmed easily.