Cranberries – the precious rubies of the Arctic wetlands

Cranberries – the precious rubies of the Arctic wetlands

Heli Koskinen

Cranberries are known as the ruby-red berries that come into their own during the Christmas season. Cranberries are the last berries to ripen in our Arctic nature, as they are ready to be picked from bogs and wetlands late in the autumn until the first snow arrives.

Cranberries are valued for their beautiful red color, sour yet fresh taste and the protective nutrients they contain. Rich in healthy vitamins and plant compounds, cranberries have a long history of use in folk medicine and they have been used to treat all kinds of ailments from urinary infections to scurvy. Cranberry juice is still widely used today for preventing urinary tract infections. The sour flavor of cranberries complements sweet and savoury dishes well and they are a popular pair for various meat dishes as well as baked goods.

Cranberry grows in moist bogs in the autumn

Cranberries belong in the heath family along with lingonberries, bilberries and blueberries. Cranberries can be found in acidic bogs, wetlands and lake shores throughout Finland. Cranberries are low shrubs that creep along the moss-covered ground. The berries grow in the slender and wiry stems of the shrubs. Cranberries are easy to recognize due to their red color and slightly tear-drop shape, making the berries resemble small rubies scattered on the mossy ground.

A big part of the cranberries that grow in the Finnish bogs are not picked due to their habitat which can be slightly difficult for berry-pickers to enter. Picking cranberries gets a bit easier as the first frosts arrive though, as it is easier to walk on a frozen bog. When picked after the first frosts, cranberries will also contain more sugar which reduces their naturally acidic flavor.

Different species of cranberries grow all around the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere and cranberries are also cultivated especially in North America. Cranberries are particularly popular in the United States and Canada which account for the majority of the production of cranberries in the world. Cranberries also have a cultural significance in the United States and they are served at Thanksgiving dinner to commemorate the arrival of the pilgrims in New England in the 17th century. Cranberry was originally named “crane berry” by the pilgrims because the flower of cranberry resembles the head and beak of a crane.

Cranberry flowers resemble the head and beak of a crane. 

Cranberry flowers resemble the head and beak of a crane. 

Cranberry is known for its anti-inflammatory effects

Cranberries are particularly rich in vitamin C (20 mg/100 g). They also contain vitamin A (carotenoids), vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folic acid) as well as vitamins E and K. Cranberries also contain a variety of minerals: potassium, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iodine, natrium, iron and zinc. Cranberries are also a good source of dietary fibre.

Cranberry is known for its anti-inflammatory effects which are considered to be based on the phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals it contains. Phytochemicals are bioactive compounds, such as phenolic compounds (flavonoids and anthocyanins), which function as antioxidants in the body preventing the damaging effects of oxidative stress. Cranberries contain plenty of phytochemicals which also give the berries their distinctive red color and tart flavor.

Cranberry juice is commonly used to prevent urinary tract infections. The effect is to a large part based on the phenolic compounds of cranberries, especially proanthocyanidins, which prevent the harmful bacteria from sticking to the cells that line the urinary tract. This reduces the chances of developing urinary tract infections. Cranberries also contain organic acids such as malic acid, citric acid and benzoic acid which not only give the berries a slightly bitter flavor but also make cranberries an effective treatment for stomach flus. The acids also improve digestion – which is another reason why cranberries have traditionally been consumed during large meals such as Christmas dinners.

Another special feature of cranberries is that they contain a small amount of iodine which is essential for the normal functioning of the thyroid. If after enjoying cranberries you feel invigorated it may very well be due to the fact that cranberries have given a little boost to your thyroid.

Cranberries are used for juices, sauces and pastries

Any berry is always best when consumed fresh. However, as fresh berries are available only for a short period of time during the year, we need to resort to different ways to preserve them to enjoy their wonderful benefits around the year. Cranberries are an excellent berry for preserving since they contain a lot of benzoic acid. Benzoic acid helps cranberries to preserve well when frozen and they can be preserved without sugar.

Cranberry cake is the ultimate Christmas time treat.

Cranberry cake is the ultimate Christmas time treat. 

Fresh or frozen cranberries

Fresh or frozen cranberries can be used to make sauces for meat dishes, delicious semolina porridge, or they can be used in desserts and baking. Cranberries are particularly good when added to muffins and cakes. Fresh cranberries can also be used to make cranberry juice. Cranberries are usually mixed with other berries or fruits when making juice which help to cut some of the sharp taste of cranberries.

Cranberry jelly and marmalade

Cranberries contain a lot of pectin. Pectin is a fiber which functions as a “glue” by holding together the walls of plant cells, which is why pectin also enhances the jellification of cranberries. Therefore cranberries are excellent for making jams, jellies and marmalades. Cranberry jelly is traditionally served with roast turkey, a pair made famous by the American Thanksgiving.

Cranberry powder and dried cranberries

Cranberry powders and dried cranberries is an excellent way to add vitamins and minerals to various foods and dishes. Cranberry powder and dried cranberries also preserve well, making them a really convenient way to enjoy the benefits of cranberries anytime of the year. Cranberry powder and dried cranberries can be added for example to yogurt, smoothie, porridge or muesli. Due to its beautiful red color, cranberry powder is also excellent for decorating desserts, pastries and drinks. Dried cranberries are also a nice addition to muffins or self-made breakfast bars.

Cranberry powders and dried cranberries from the pure Arctic nature

Here at Arctic Pure, you can find many cranberry treats made from cranberries grown in the pure Finnish nature. Our selection includes cranberry powders, dried cranberries, cranberry juices and supplements with cranberries. We also recommend you to try cranberry marmalade, a sweet treat containing the fresh aromas of the Arctic nature. Get to know our selection of cranberry products and choose your favorites!

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