Whether enjoying them as sauce next to their Thanksgiving turkey, dried in their morning cereal, or as a refreshing juice, people have utilized the tart, red cranberry in their meals and snacks for many years. In fact, the origins of the fruit go back to the Native Americans, who used it not only in food, but also as a dye and for medicinal purposes. Cranberries, blueberries, and the Concord grape are among the few fruits native to North America.
In the early 1800s, Captain Henry Hall became the first person to commercially farm cranberries in Dennis, MA. In modern times, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, Quebec, and British Columbia are where the bulk in the world are grown. Cranberries grow on vines that are very durable and can live indefinitely; some vines are over 150 years old. There are two ways to harvest the fruit: wet and dry. In a wet harvest, the beds where the cranberries are grown are flooded, the berries are shaken loose from the vines with special tools, and then they are gathered when they float to the top of the water. In a dry harvest, a special machine is used to rake the berries off the vine. Most are harvested during September and October.
Like other fruits, cranberries offer health benefits. They contain antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. One of the best known benefits of drinking the juice is the prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs). People have used cranberry juice for this purpose since the early 1900s. In the 1990s, researchers at Harvard Medical School and Rutgers University determined that specific components in the berries prevented the bacteria that causes UTIs from sticking to cells in the urinary tract, thereby flushing them from the body. Scientists are now researching the possibility that those components may also be helpful in the treatment of ulcers and gum disease.