Cranberries are native to North America; they grow in cool, sandy bogs on low, woody vines. Native Americans prized the berries for their medicinal properties, using them as both a dye and a food. When the Pilgrims landed on the shores of Massachusetts in 1620, they discovered the tart, scarlet fruit growing along the coastline and quickly learned to appreciate the berry’s nutritional and culinary value. Today, cranberries are cultivated in the United States in Massachusetts, Oregon, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Washington. Along with blueberries and Concord grapes, cranberries are one of only 3 commercially grown, native North American fruits.
Sales of fresh cranberries make up only a small amount of the annual industrial crop. The majority of the commercial yield is dried or used for juice and cranberry sauce.
Not only do they taste great, but modern science has confirmed the health benefits of eating cranberries. Centuries ago they were used to prevent scurvy, and researchers today speculate that the phytochemicals, antibacterial properties and high vitamin content of cranberries may help protect against cancer, strokes, heart disease and some infections.
How to store dried cranberries
Store dried fruit in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months, or refrigerate for up to a year.
Tips for using dried cranberries
Although fresh cranberries are much too tart to eat raw, dried berries are a different story. Unlike most other dried fruits, cranberries are lightly sweetened with sugar or fruit juice concentrates in the drying process, lending them a distinctive, bright, sweet tang. Full of antioxidants, dried cranberries are a healthy and tasty on-the-go snack for the whole family, and they’re great for cooking and baking, too.
To chop dried cranberries, lightly wipe your knife blade with vegetable oil to help prevent the fruit from sticking to it.