In Britain, cranberry may refer to the native species Vaccinium oxycoccos, while in North America, cranberry may refer to Vaccinium macrocarpon.
Vaccinium oxycoccos is known by the common names small cranberry, bog cranberry, swamp cranberry while Vaccinium macrocarpon is known by the common names large cranberry, American cranberry and bearberry.
Native Americans used the cranberries as a staple as early as 1550.
By 1620 Pilgrims learned how to use cranberries from the Native Americans.
The development of cultivated varieties cranberries occurred only during the past 100 years, making it one of the most recently domesticated fruit crops.
Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec.
Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs or vines up to 2 meters (7 ft) long and 5 to 20 centimeters (2 to 8 in) in height.
They have slender, wiry stems that are not thickly woody and have small evergreen leaves.
The flowers are pink, with very distinct reflexed petals, leaving the style and stamens fully exposed and pointing forward. Small flowers appear in June and are pollinated by bees.
The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially light green, turning red when ripe. It is edible, but with an acidic taste that usually overwhelms its sweetness.
Berry picking begins in early September and continues until late October. More than 110,000 tonnes (121,255 US tons) are produced in the United States annually. Most cranberry products are consumed in the United States and Canada.
There are 46 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cranberries.
Cranberries are a very good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese, as well as a good source of vitamin E, vitamin K, copper and pantothenic acid.
The health benefits of cranberries include relief from urinary tract infection (UTI), respiratory disorders, kidney stones, cancer and heart diseases. Cranberries are especially beneficial to the eyes (they significantly improve symptoms of cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy).
They are also sold dried and sweetened.
Cranberry juice is usually sweetened or blended with other fruit juices to reduce its natural tartness.
Cranberry sauce is a traditional accompaniment to turkey at Christmas dinner in the United Kingdom, and atChristmas and Thanksgiving dinners in the United States and Canada.
At one teaspoon of sugar per ounce, cranberry juice cocktail is more highly sweetened than even soda drinksthat have been linked to obesity.
There are several alcoholic cocktails, including the Cosmopolitan, that include cranberry juice.
The name, cranberry, derives from the German, kraanbere (English translation, craneberry), first named as cranberry in English by the missionary John Eliot in 1647. Around 1694, German and Dutch colonists in New England used the word, cranberry, to represent the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembling the neck, head, and bill of a crane. The traditional English name for the plant more common in Europe, Vaccinium oxycoccos, fenberry, originated from plants with small red berries found growing in fen (marsh) lands of England.
The Lenni-lenape Indians of New Jersey called the cranberry “Pakim” meaning ‘bitter berry.’ They used this wild red berry as a part of their food and as a symbol of peace and friendship. The Chippawas called the cranberry “a’ni-bimin,” the Alogonquin called it “atoqua,” and the Naragansetts called it “sasemineash.” Native Americans would eat it raw, mixed in with maple sugar, or with deer meat (as a dried “Pemmican”).
Cranberries were offered to the pilgrims at the first thanksgiving.