|Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.|
|Ref: ITIS 23599|
The cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a small red semi-sweet and tart berry, native to the northern part of the North American continent (United States and Canada). The berry is often used in baking (muffins and cakes) and for medicinal purposes.
Native Americans are believed to have first recognized and used the cranberry as a source of food. Some tribes called the red berries Sassamanash. They are reported to have introduced the cranberry to starving European settlers in Massachusetts around 1620, who incorporated the berry into the traditional Thanksgiving feast.
Usually cranberries are served as a compote or jelly, but sometimes they are incorporated in other ways. Cranberry juice, usually sweetened and often mixed with other fruit juices, is a major use of cranberries.
The cranberry bush will only grow in an environment of sandy, salty wetlands. US Revolutionary war veteran Henry Hall is alleged to be the first to cultivate the cranberry, in the Cape Cod town of Dennis around 1816.
There is some use of cranberry juice by people with spinal paralysis; regular consumption of the juice is supposed to reduce the rate of urinary tract infections. While much of the evidence is equivocal, a number of double-blind clinical trials have been carried out that suggest there actually is an effect: a component of the juice appears to competitively inhibit bacterial attachment to the ureter.
Cranberry farms today are diked so they may be flooded. When the berries are ripe, they float, making harvesting a matter of flooding the field, shaking the bushes a bit, and skimming off the berries into waiting trucks.
See also Wikipedia Cookbook