All About Cranberries

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The Cranberry has long been a part of our Thanksgiving Dinners but how much do you know about how the Cranberry became part of our culture. The Cranberry actually has a long history in North America and had an important place in everyday Indian life.

The Cranberry was used by the Indians to brighten up food, to treat wounds from poisoned arrows and as a dye for blankets and rugs. Pilgrim women learned about the Cranberry from the friendly Indians and they soon began to create their own ways of fixing cranberries for their dinner tables. They made cranberry sauces, bubbling tarts and nogs. (drinks) Today at our Thanksgiving Dinner Tables Cranberries are served in different forms – Whole Berry Sauce, Jellied Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Orange Relish and sometimes as part of a salad.

Cranberries are also used in baked goods – they make an excellent fruit for Quick Breads and a good Sauce for Waffles and Pancakes.

Cranberries were called different names by Indians of different areas. Some of the names they were called are listed below:

Sassamanesh – Eastern (New England States) Indians

Atoqua – Algonquians in Wisconsin

Pakimintzen – New Jersey (symbol of Peace)

(Cranberry Eater)

The modern day name “Cranberry” was a contraction of crane berry, an early name given to the berries because their pale pink blossoms resembled the head of a crane and Sandhill Cranes were seen in the lowlands eating the berries.

Cultivation of Cranberries began in Massachusetts nearly 200 years after the landing of the Pilgrims. In 1816 Henry Hall of Dennis, Cape Cod, noticed that cranberries seemed to grow large and juicier where sand from the dunes blew over the vines. Cultivation today came from this simple observation made almost 200 years ago.

Cranberries grow on peat soil that has been covered with a three inch layer of sand. Cuttings or branches from existing cranberry vines are planted deep enough to take root in the peat soil beneath the sand. The vines, planted about six inches apart, gradually spread over the ground forming a thick green carpet. The vines are weeded in the spring, pruned in the fall, fertilized and re-sanded every three or four years. Birds are needed to control the insects and bees pollinate the blossoms.

A good Cranberry will have a bounce to it. At the Ocean Spray plant, if a berry does not bounced it will be rejected. Today, these tart berries are used in numerous dishes in addition to Cranberry Sauce.

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