Produce Superstars: Cranberries, the New Health Food?

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My recipe for cranberry-apple compote contains nary a grain of refined, white sugar--see full recipe after the jump.

Most of us aren’t drawn to cranberries because we hope they’ll make us healthy–we like their gorgeous red color and tart, refreshing taste. Still and all, they have their nutritional charms. Among them, decent quantities of vitamin C, anti-oxidant properties, and many people believe, anti-bacterial qualities as well (they are often cited as being of benefit for treating or preventing urinary tract infections). Cranberries became part of our Thanksgiving celebrations, reportedly, because Native Americans taught early European settlers how to harvest and preserve the wild berries, which ripen at this time of year. Cultivated berries now account for probably 100 per cent of the berries we eat, with Wisconsin being the biggest producer (see an informative slide show at the Wisconsin grower’s website). There’s no getting around the fact that they’re too tart to eat raw, so they must be balanced with some kind of sweetener. In my recipe, I use the more gentle sweeteners, brown rice syrup and maple syrup to tame the tartness very nicely–the myth that you have to pour on the white sugar, is just that, a myth.  I think my recipe will do very nicely indeed on your holiday table, let me know how you like it (full recipe, after the jump).

Cranberries in partially-flooded bog. Cranberries do not grow in water, but the bogs are flooded to facilitate harvesting of the berries which float to the surface after a harvesting machine drives through the bogs. (USDA photo)

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