Dried Cranberries[ PURCHASE INFO ]
Dried Cranberries: Dried Cranberries are the dehydrated version of the Common Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus). Well known for it's canned varieties used during the American holiday season, the common cranberry is a relative of the blueberry. Dried cranberries start out in acidic bogs in the cooler areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The plant is a small evergreen bush, growing low to the ground like a vine. The leaves of the plant are smaller than the berries, which are white until they ripen to a deep red. Tart and sweet, dried cranberries are a popular additon to salads, trail mix, muffins, and Thanksgiving dinners. Their deep red color helps too, but it's not the only color option! White cranberries are edible too, the cranberries are allowed to ripen but are harvested before they turn the familiar deep red color. Harvesting the fruit early is more difficult and does some damage to the plants, but there is a market for white berries. The white berries are used primarily in white cranberry juice drinks.
In the wild, cranberries grow in bogs. Commercial growers emulate this natural setting with floodable beds. The commercially grown cranberries are not grown under water, they are just watered enough to keep the growing medium moist. When the fruit has ripened the beds are flooded for the harvesting process, and to protect the plants during winter's frost. The cranberry beds are flooded with 6-8 inches of water, and a mechanical harvester is used to release the fruit from the plant. The cranberries float, and are hearded to one area of the bed where they are removed for further processing. Most of the berries are used for juice drinks, various cranberry sauces, and dried cranberries (usually sweetened and dried). The remaining products amount to only about 5% of a year's production.
Dried cranberries are known to have a few health benefits. They are used widely for treating urinary tract issues, and for convenience cranberry concentrate pills are sold in the vitamin section of the supermarket. Dried cranberries are being studied for possible health uses: fighting bacterial infections, cardiovascular benefits, immune system strengthening, and anti-cancer properties. Dried cranberries are even suspected of helping fight tooth decay!
Where to buy: Dried