The American Cranberry (the most familiar of the four cranberry species) is grown throughout the Northern United States and Southern Canada. Wisconsin produces about half of the United States' annual crop of cranberries. Massachusetts produces about a third with the remainder coming mainly from New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.

The berries grow on winding vines in sandy bogs and marshes. The berries begin white. The familiar deep red color is indicative that the berries have fully ripened.

The cranberry is a relative of both the blueberry and the huckleberry. For you botanists, they all belong to the subgenus Vaccinium.

The origin of the name "cranberry" has two possible explanations, both "stemming" from a relationship with long-neck cranes. One theory says the "crane-berry", as it was once known, was named so because cranes were common visitors to cranberry bogs where's they'd eat the berries. Explanation number two says the plant was named after cranes because the flowers on cranberry vines resembled cranes. Just prior to blooming, the "stem", calyx, and petals of the flower resemble the neck, head, and bill of a crane.

The berry's prominence during the holiday season is most likely a simple matter of timing. Cranberries are usually harvested in September and October and are abundant during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It certainly doesn't hurt that the red berries add a festive look to dishes and table settings.

An often-asked question is whether or not cranberries were eaten during the first Thanksgiving. Until I get my time machine working again, we can only say that it's very possible. We know that Native Americans were using the cranberries (or Sassamanash as they called them) in food and medicines before the pilgrims ever arrived. They used to mix deer meat (or fish) and mashed cranberries to make jerky called pemmican. Around 1620, they taught European settlers that the cranberry's tart nature could be sweetened by boiling and adding maple syrup.

Those crazy Indians were onto a good thing. We now know cranberries are rich in many vitamins and minerals including zinc and Vitamins B and C. There's evidence to suggest cranberries may help prevent urinary tract infections. In fact, the National Kidney Foundation recommends drinking a 10-ounce glass of cranberry juice cocktail if you're prone to urinary tract infections. Other possible health benefits include reduced risk of gum disease, ulcers, heart disease and cancer.

So this holiday season, make sure to take advantage of the cranberry. Try asking your friends and family to "Pass the Sassmanash". When they ask what you mean, exclaim, "The crane berries!" Make the holiday table a forum for positive change (i.e. discuss the urinary track thing).

Interesting Cranberry Facts: Of all commercially-significant fruits, only three - the blueberry, the Concord grape and the cranberry can trace their roots to North American soil. It takes about 440 cranberries to make a pound. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proclaimed October as National Cranberry Month. Cran-tastic!

Articles that reference "Cranberry":
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Recipes with "Cranberry" in the title:
  1. Almond Cranberry Muesli
  2. Baked Cranberry Oatmeal
  3. Christmas Cranberry Scones
  4. Cranberry Almond Caramel Pancakes
  5. Cranberry Almond Crunch Surprise Oatmeal
  6. Cranberry Apple Tea
  7. Cranberry Banana Bread
  8. Cranberry Banana Smoothy
  9. Cranberry Bliss Bars -- a la Starbucks
  10. Cranberry Christmas Bars
  11. Cranberry Coffee Cake
  12. Cranberry Cornbread Scones
  13. Cranberry Fritters
  14. Cranberry Granola
  15. Cranberry Muffins
  16. Cranberry Oatmeal
  17. Cranberry Orange Smoothie
  18. Cranberry Orange Waffles
  19. Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
  20. Cranberry Pumpkin Waffles
  21. Cranberry Sauce Coffee Cake
  22. Cranberry Sauce Pancake Topping
  23. Cranberry Sauce Pancakes
  24. Cranberry Sauce Smoothie
  25. Cranberry Thanksgiving Muffins
  26. Cranberry Yogurt Cornmeal Muffins
  27. Cranberry-Nut Coffee Cake
  28. Cranberry-Orange Chutney
  29. Cranberry-Orange Scones
  30. Eggnog French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote
  31. Fresh Cranberry Layered Coffee Cake
  32. Maple Cranberry Oatmeal
  33. Oatmeal Pancakes With Cranberry-Maple Syrup
  34. Orange Cranberry Muffins
  35. Orange Cranberry Oatmeal
  36. Orange Cranberry Scones

Recipes with "Cranberry" in the ingredients:
  1. Cranberry Apple Tea
  2. Cranberry Christmas Bars
  3. Cranberry Orange Smoothie
  4. Cranberry Sauce Coffee Cake
  5. Cranberry Sauce Pancake Topping
  6. Cranberry Sauce Pancakes
  7. Cranberry Sauce Smoothie
  8. Cranberry Thanksgiving Muffins
  9. Cranberry-Nut Coffee Cake
  10. Fish Stick Breakfast Broil
  11. Irish Breakfast Smoothie
  12. Oatmeal Pancakes With Cranberry-Maple Syrup
  13. Poinsettia (Brunch Cocktail)

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