A native fruit of North America, cranberries are grown commercially throughout the northern portion of the United States as well as throughout Canada. The botanical name of the North American cranberry is Vaccinium macrocarpon. It belongs to the family of Ericaceae, which comprises approximately 1350 different species of plants, including the blueberry or Vaccinium augustifolium.
A low-growing perennial, the cranberry plant or shrub is woody with multiple vines. The leaves are small and ovate in shape. The horizontal stems, known as stolons, can grow as long as six feet. Buds on the stolons grow into short branches that are vertical and between two to eight inches in height, depending on whether they are vegetative or fruiting in nature. Each fruiting branch can grow up to seven flowers. Harvesting the fruit is accomplished by one of two methods - dry or wet. The wet harvest involves flooding the cranberry beds with water and beating the fruit from the plants. The floating cranberries are then gathered up for processing as juice or canned fruit. A picking machine is used during the dry harvest, and the fruit is cleaned and shipped fresh.
The vines flourish in a growing medium containing peat, clay, sand, and gravel. This type of ground is referred to as a bog. Popular thought credits glacial deposits with creating such bogs. Planting isn't necessary since the cranberry vine can survive for more than a hundred years. Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Washington, New Jersey, Oregon, and parts of Canada are the major growing areas for this fruit. However, the cranberry industry is also present in Maine, Michigan, New York, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
The Cranberry has enjoyed a long history of popularity. Native Americans used this berry as a food source and dying agent, as well as for its healing capabilities. They also incorporated it into many of their ceremonies. The early Pilgrims called it the craneberry, taking the name from the Sandhill crane, a bird with a head and bill that resembled the tiny, pink flowers that grow on the cranberry plant. They also adopted the uses that the Native Americans had for this fruit.
Cranberries are filled with antioxidants and natural nutrients, offering health benefits to anyone who includes them in their diet. Today, cranberries are available fresh, dried, canned, and as a liquid. Cranberry juice has long been touted with the ability to help prevent urinary tract infections by keeping the area free of bacteria due to its high acid concentration. It can also help to minimize unpleasant odor for those individuals who suffer from incontinence. Nonetheless, a physician should be seen when the condition merits it.
Following in the footsteps of the Native Americans, researchers have Emerging discovered that this tiny, tart, red fruit offers anti-carcinogenic and anti-aging benefits, as well as offering some protection from heart disease, dental caries, and ulcers. While studies are still necessary to firm up any suppositions, cranberries are commonly thought to offer health benefits for people suffering from cancer, scurvy, diabetes type 2, and lung inflammation. Regular ingestion of this powerful little fruit is thought to reduce swelling and prevent the clotting of the blood, while safeguarding against the incidence of atheroschlerosis.
A good source of vitamin C and rich antioxidants, cranberries offer impressive anti-aging benefits. When they are applied as an ingredient in a topical formulation, they neutralize free radicals in order to refine the appearance of fine lines and wrinkled skin. Plus, they help to stimulate the production of collagen, a necessary element of healthy, younger-looking skin. Cranberry Extract and Cranberry Seed Oil are actually the most potent forms of this tiny red berry. They offer anti-inflammatory relief, reducing unnecessary swelling, as well as moisturizing benefits that help to enhance the skin's lipid barrier protection. All of this protects the skin against environmental damage. Containing Omega-3 fatty acids, Cranberry Seed Oil acts as a super skin conditioner, emollient, and lubricant, delivering high concentrations of both vitamin A and vitamin E to the skin for even more antioxidant protection.
Recent research shows that cranberries are filled with PACs, powerful nutrients called Proanthocyanidins. Evidence has suggested that not only do PACs protect cranberries against bacteria and stressors from the environment, but they can protect the teeth from bacteria-causing bacteria.