Welcome to another segment of Alicia’s Nutrition Nuggets! Today we will be talking about the state fruit of Wisconsin – the cranberry!
Cranberries are a small, tart fruit that looks like a small bounce ball. It is the number 1 fruit crop for the state and Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any other state in the US.
The cranberry was originally called the “crane berry” because when it blossomed, the flower resembled a sandhill crane. They also have been called “bounce berries” because ripe, raw cranberries bounce. In fact, the first governor of New Jersey (John Webb) noticed when he dropped cranberries on the stairs, the ripe cranberries bounced down to the bottom but the rotten cranberries stayed on the stairs.
When you think of cranberries, most people probably don’t think about eating them raw, but you can. If you enjoy eating or drinking sour foods (like lemonade), you might really enjoy eating raw cranberries. Many of you may have seen cranberries on the holiday dinner table. Cranberries are frequently cooked and canned and served at Thanksgiving time. Another popular cranberry product is cranberry juice. Cranberries can be found many places. In fact, they are listed as an ingredient in over 1000 foods!
Overall, 95% of cranberries harvested are used for juice, sauce, or sweetened/dried cranberries. When you are in the grocery store you might see many different varieties of cranberry juice. You might even see a white cranberry juice. White juice and red juice are both made from the same cranberry. However, cranberries can be harvested before they turn in to their beautiful red color. When harvested before they turn red, the berries can be made into a white juice.
No matter how you decide to eat them, cranberries pack a big punch. Cranberries contain vitamin C and are a good source of fiber. Also, they are loaded with antioxidants that helps protect your heart and your whole body.
Many people believe cranberries grow on water. However, cranberry plants are rooted in the ground. They prefer sandy soil, so they grow really well in Wisconsin, and are typically found in sandy bogs and marshes. When farmers are growing cranberries and want to harvest their fruit, they flood their cranberry bogs. When the bog is flooded the cranberries float to the top of the bog for easy harvesting because they contain a pocket of air. The floating berries are much easier to harvest, so every fall the bogs are flooded.
Cranberries are native to North America. In fact, Native Americans used cranberries as food, medicine, and a fabric dye. Native Americans showed Pilgrim settlers how to use cranberries and as early as 1683 the settlers were making cranberry juice. Cranberry vines will survive indefinitely if undamaged, so vines planted in the 1800’s by Wisconsin farmers may still be in use today.
I hope you all enjoy your cranberries. Don’t forget – it’s alright to try just one bite!