Fuel Your Body
Photo by prettyinprint via Flickr (cc)
Cranberries, the small red fruit that’s rarely eaten raw, should play more than just a decorative role on the dinner table during your Thanksgiving and Holiday feasts.
One of only three fruits that trace their history to North America, this tiny fruit grows on vines and is now big business with large tracts of land dedicated to production. Cranberries are grown in beds, called bogs. The cranberry vine is very hardy, and if undamaged, can survive indefinitely – there are some on Cape Cod, Massachusetts that are over 150 years old!
Cranberry juice has often been used to assist women in keeping bladder infections at bay. While research is still being carried out in this area, new findings about cranberries components are revealing its potential for more medicinal uses. Native Americans used cranberries in a variety of ways: ground up with meat, which was then dried to produce pemmican – original jerky; and in a type of paste to put on wounds as it was believed it kept infections at bay. But more recently, research shows that cranberries are loaded with polyphenols – producing the anti-oxidant effect ie. anti-aging compounds. Tests have shown that there are 18 different compounds in cranberries, including anthocyanins. In addition to containing antioxidants, they can help fight cell damage.
According to researcher Jeffrey Blumberg at Tufts University in Massachusetts, “small amounts of these phytochemicals find their way from plant foods into our cells, and then direct cells to reduce our inflammatory reactions. And inflammation is not only something we see with infectious disease, but chronic low levels (of inflammation) now appear to be an important risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
So, how to get more cranberries into your diet?
Try one of mixologist Gina Chersevani’s mocktails, such as the Cranberry Antioxidant Punch or try a Quince Simple Syrup.
Also try to incorporate dried cranberries into baked goods – this pumpkin muffin recipe calls for raisins, but do what some of the reviewers of this recipe have done, and substitute craisins (ie. dried cranberries) instead.
One of the advantages of cranberries is that because it’s not a sweet fruit, it can be adapted to work in either sweet or savoury dishes and matches well with both meats and fish.
My all-time favourite cranberry relish is here – the curry adds to its versatility in terms of serving it with meat, fish and anything needing a bit of perking up!
TRY IT AT HOME
Cranberry Antioxidant Punch
(makes approximately six drinks)
2 cups fresh cranberries
6 to 8 pears, medium size
1 cup quince simple syrup — make ahead
Feed cranberries and whole pears into a juice machine. Double strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove the cranberry seeds. In a pitcher, mix the pear and cranberry juice with the quince simple syrup. To serve, pour over ice and garnish with fresh cranberries.
*To make alcoholic, add 1 1/2 ounce of vodka per cocktail.
Quince Simple Syrup
1 cup honey
2 cups water
3 medium-sized quinces, sliced with seeds removed
In a small pot, combine honey, water and quince. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow quince to simmer for about 10 minutes or until fruit is soft. Remove from heat, strain the quince out, discard. Let syrup cool to room temperature before using.
By Joanna Gertler
(published December 07, 2010)