It hits you instantly. A burst that sets every taste bud you have singing. Your lips pucker and your eyes press closed, leaking tears from the corners. You just ate a cranberry. Their deep red color signals tart flavor at its peak. Eat them raw if you dare, but most mortals choose a sweetened jam or juice blend for their fix, or use them as a pungent addition to a favorite dish.
When it comes to eating raw cranberries, you’re going to get a load of nutrients. This includes vitamin C, dietary fiber, manganese, and more. On top of that, every 100 grams of those nutrients is more than 10 percent of the recommended daily amount. So that funny face you make will be totally worth it. Just be prepared for laughter from little kids … and your relatives gathered ‘round the punch bowl.
If you’d rather drink your cranberries you’re still in luck. Cranberry juice has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker strongly associated with inflammation in adults. It’s also been shown to affect insulin levels, cholesterol, triglycerides, and keep peptic ulcers from forming in your stomach.
Heart disease is a huge threat, especially in America. Thankfully cranberries are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that help with cardiovascular health. By consuming eight ounces of juice per day, or one cup, there’s also evidence that cranberry juice helps prevent atherosclerosis which can obstruct blood flow and lead to problems such as heart attack, stroke, or death.
How to Buy: Dried cranberries can be bought in the store all year. But the freshest batches are found between September and early November when they are harvested. Make sure they are firm and a deep red, and check the expiration date.
Buying Local: They’re native to North America and mostly grown in Wisconsin (they have an actual Cranberry Institute) and Massachusetts in the United States.
How to Read the Label: The serving size is at the top of the label and varies based on whether it’s juice, sauce, fresh, or dried. Below are the amount of nutrients in the serving size.
How to Use: Cranberries can be used in many ways. A sauce or jam can complement your favorite dessert or savory dish as a topping, they can stand alone as a side, or infuse them into your favorite cocktail.
How to Store: Dried cranberries can last up to 3 months in an airtight container at room temperature. Fresh cranberries belong in the fridge but don’t wash them beforehand, as they could spoil. Go through the batch and discard pitted, shriveled, or off-colored berries. To freeze, wash and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Then chill in the freezer for roughly two hours and then transfer to a freezer-friendly bag. Cranberries store in the freezer for up to 1 year.
Check out some of our favorite recipes with cranberries below!