Cranberry

Cranberry

Vaccinium subg. Oxycoccus

Cranberries are packed with a good load of antioxidants that reduce the recurrence of UTIs, improve heart health, control blood sugar levels, regulate immunity, support heart health, and protect against stomach ulcers, gum infections, dental cavities, and even cancer too.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Bog cranberry, Swamp cranberry, Small cranberry
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: Yes
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Berries
  • Side Effects:
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About Cranberry

Vaccinium subgenus oxycoccus, commonly to the Britons as cranberry, is an evergreen prostrate shrub, marked by dark brown to red woody stems that lay our roots to connect with the ground. It showcases small, leathery oblong to ovate leaves and pinkish-red flowers that transform into small and a bit drier berry fruits.

Cranberry plants are widespread across the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is cultivated for commercial purposes in Central and Northern Europe. Traditionally, its leaves and fruit are employed for the treatment of infections of the bladder, stomach, liver, and other chronic conditions such as diabetes and wounds. Today, cranberry is a prime ingredient of many allopathic and herbal medicinal preparations that are indicated for the remedy of urinary tract infections (UTIs). 

Cranberries are packed with a good load of antioxidants that reduce the recurrence of UTIs, improve heart health, control blood sugar levels, regulate immunity, support heart health, and protect against stomach ulcers, gum infections, dental cavities, and even cancer too. 

Apart from being a hero in herbalism, cranberry is enjoyed in kitchens all across the world as a sauce, topping, and stuffing. It serves as a perfect ingredient to go in the cocktails, syrups, smoothies, pies, muffins, salads, and bread.

 

Growing

Depending on your zone, start your cranberries in spring after the last major frost. Choose a spot that receives direct sunlight with beds of half garden soil and half peat moss. Gardeners recommend planting the cranberry plants in a bog to protect the upcoming flowers and fruits from fall frost. They can also be grown indoors in a pot, provided they receive optimum sun exposure and an acidic potting mix. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, slow-release acidic fertilizer can be administered in spring. 

Water your plant every day during the first 2 weeks of germination, followed by the routine you follow for the rest of your garden plants.

Cranberry plants, if started with seeds, take around 3 to 4 years to produce the berry fruits. Its seeds sprout within 3 to 5 weeks. It produces flowers from late May till June that are happily pollinated by the bees. These flowers transit to post-fertilization changes to become fruits. 

During winters, the bogs are immersed in water that freezes over the plant. The plant goes dormant during this season and a layer of sand is spread over the ice to protect the plant. With the arrival of spring, the ice melts and the sand drops to the ground with the water reverting back to rivers and respective reservoirs. At this stage, the cranberry plant produces two buds: one that opens up to become a flower and the second one that promises to produce fruit in the upcoming year. 

During summer, the sun, water, and bees play their game to transform the flowers into hard green berries. They ripen with time and float on top of the water in the bogs in fall, only to be harvested using rakes, booms, or eggbeaters. 

 

Harvesting

Cranberries are harvested in the fall, preferably from mid-September to early October.  

Cranberry fruits are harvested by flooding the bogs and collecting the berries using rakes or booms.

Fresh cranberries are refrigerated in an airtight container to maintain their shelf-life for up to 3 months. Or you can dry them using a dehydrator and store them in an airtight container in a dark and dry place to enjoy the essence of its taste year-round. 

 

Usage

Cranberries are one of the many reasons to smile during Thanksgiving dinners. They are being fervently incorporated into different medicinal preparations for the purpose of curing a vast array of ailments, especially UTIs.

  • Tincture - Fresh cranberries are blended with sugar and macerated in alcohol, preferably vodka, for not more than two weeks in an airtight container. Strain the liquid through muslin cloth and bottle up the resultant tincture for later use.
  • Tea - Fresh cranberries are boiled in water for about 30 minutes and enjoyed with some sugar and orange zest stirred in.
  • Decoction - Dried cranberries are rolled to boil in water for 30 minutes and steeped for further 45 minutes to yield a highly concentrated, bitter-tasting decoction. 
  • Salve - Cranberry seed oil is stirred with melted beeswax and other essential oils of your choice to formulate a skin-friendly salve that can tame inflammation, irritations, psoriasis, and eczema.
  • Syrup - Fresh cranberries are simmered in a sugar solution until it thickens to make cranberry syrup.