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Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines in the subgenus Oxycoccus of the genus Vaccinium. In some methods of classification, Oxycoccus is regarded as a genus in its own right. They can be found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler regions of the northern hemisphere.

In their natural habitat, the plant grows ( See how does it grow)  vigorously in acidic sandy bogs throughout the cooler parts of the Europe, Northern states in the United States and Canada. The plant is actually a dwarf, creeping shrub, or vine, which runs upto 10 to 20 cm in height. It features slender, wiry, not so thick, woody stems bearing small, evergreen leaves.  They have slender, wiry stems that are not thickly woody and have small evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink, with very distinct reflexed petals, leaving the style and stamens fully exposed and pointing forward. They are pollinated by bees. The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. It is edible, with an acidic taste that can overwhelm its sweetness.

Cranberries are a major commercial crop in certain American states and Canadian provinces. Most cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, jam, and sweetened dried cranberries, with the remainder sold fresh to consumers. Cranberry sauce is regarded as an indispensable part of traditional American and Canadian Thanksgiving menus and some European winter festivals.

Unique, wild and natural by habitat, cranberries are rich in phyto-nutrients (naturally derived plant compounds), particularly proanthocyanidin antioxidants, which are essential for all-round wellness. The berries are indeed containing numerous chemical substances that may offer protection from tooth cavities, urinary tract infection, and inflammatory diseases.

Selection and storage

1. Fresh cranberries can be available from October until December.
2. Cranberries should be fresh and firm to touch.
3. The skin should be a deep red, and without bruises.
4. If you sense a stale smell coming from the lot, avoid buying as one rotten fruit can end up spoiling the whole batch
5. While fresh, as well as dried berries contain most of the antioxidants, bottled cranberry drinks and cranberry cocktails with added sugars contain the least.
6. Fresh berries can be stored inside the refrigerator for several days. Sort out any discolored, soft, shriveled or sticky fruits before storing.      
7. They have a very short shelf life if kept at room temperature.

Culinary Uses

1. Cranberries are processed into juices, sauce, syrups  (also see ) and sweetened dried cranberries.
2. They can be served as jelly or jam (also see ), compote and can also be cooked with slurry to make cranberry sauce.
3. Cranberries are a wonderful addition to muffins ( also see here and here and here ), scones (also here and here and here), conserve relish and cakes.
4. They are also used in making cranberry juice, which is blended into many mocktails and cocktails (also see ).
5. It is also used to prepare cranberry wine.

Preparation and serving method

In the wild, cranberries that are picked up by hand in their natural habitat can be consumed directly. While purchasing from the stores, choose berries with uniform surface and color. Wash them in cold water just prior to use to keep their texture intact.

some serving tips:

1. Raw, fresh, or dried cranberry can be eaten all alone as snacks.
2. Tart berries can be a great addition to the preparation of vegetable as well fruit salads.
3. The berries can be used as an ingredient in sorbets  (also see ) and fruit cocktails.
4. Include a small handful of frozen cranberries in a fruit smoothie (also see ).
5. Make a homemade trail mix with unsalted nuts, seeds and dried cranberries.
6. Add dried cranberries to your oatmeal or whole grain cereal.
7. They are being used in the preparation of muffins,cookie (also see ), pie-fillings (also see here and here ), breads (also see here and here and here ), and ice creams.
8. Cranberry sauce is being used in traditional poultry dish (also see here and here ).
9. Include fresh cranberries in an apple dessert like pie or cobbler ( also see here and here )for an extra kick of flavor.

Nutritional Value of Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and salicylic acid. By containing only 45 calories per cup, cranberry juice fits very well within the dietary guidelines. Cranberry juice also contains 87.13 g water per 100 g. It also provides energy, protein and carbohydrates. In terms of minerals, it contains calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and zinc. It also contains vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, E (alpha tocopherol) and vitamin K (phylloquinone). Cranberries are members of the Ericaceae family, and is native to North America.

Health benefits of 

Laboratory studies have shown that cranberry extracts can prevent breast cancer cells from multiplying. Other studies showed that cranberries helped to inhibit the development of cancerous cells in lab animals. Other cancers that may be prevented by using cranberries are colon, prostate and lung.

Cranberries are very good for the heart in several different ways. They help to lower the bad cholesterol levels which can clog the arterial walls. They also help to prevent plaque from forming on the arterial walls, which can lead to atherosclerosis, (the hardening of the arteries). As a result, your chances of a stroke are reduced, and if you have suffered from a stroke, cranberries can help you to recover from it.

Cranberries contain citric acid and other nutrients that can prevent kidney stones, and other kidney and bladder problems. Consuming cranberries on a regular basis can help you to avoid dental problems such as gingivitis, um disease, cavities and plaque build-up. Cranberries are high in antioxidants, which help to flush out your system. This in turn improves your metabolism and digestive system so that you can begin to lose weight quicker.

The antioxidants contained in cranberries will help your body to get rid of all the free radicals which contribute to the aging process. They will not only help your skin to look young, but your internal organs will also be able to function longer without problems. Cranberries can also help to lift your moods by relieving stress, anxiety and depression. Studies show that they are good for the brain and can help to improve your memory.

The antioxidants work hard to flush out the harmful toxins which suppress the immune system. Once these are removed, your immune system will be strong so that you can ward off just about any sickness or disease. Skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema can all be healed with the use of cranberries.For optimum health benefits consume fresh cranberries and make your own juice at home with a juicer, or opt for unsweetened, 100 percent pure cranberry juice.

Read More at Wikipedia.
Recipe using Cranberry see Here and Here and Here.

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