Cranberry is a sour berry of late autumn

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The first night frosts have arrived to Lapland, which also means that the cranberry harvest is now starting to be at its best. In this blog post, I will introduce this late fall sour berry in a little more detail.
Cranberry harvest in Ranua in autumn 2021

Overview

Cranberry, like cloudberry, is a sour and healthy berry growing in the bog areas. A total of two species grow in Finland: the normal cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus) and the smaller cranberry (V. microcarpum). The berries of the larger species are one and a half centimeters in diameter and the smaller ones are almost half the size. The color of the berries varies from pale red to dark red.

The smaller of the species is more common in northern Finland, while the larger one grows throughout Finland, with the exception of the northernmost part of Lapland. The larger version grows on low-nutrient, light niches and bogs, while the smaller ones grow on drier soil.

Harvest season

Cranberries usually ripen only at the turn of September-October and their picking season lasts until the snow arrives. In the spring, berries are also picked under the melting snow, which means that cranberries both begin and end the domestic berry picking season.

The berries are at their best after the first night frosts, as the temperature dropping below zero increases the sugar content of the cranberries and at the same time takes away some of the berry bitterness.

In some years, the harvest is so abundant that even very red berry mats can be seen in the bogs, and then the berry picker has to move from one rot to another carefully so that the valuable berries do not fall under the steps.

Health effects of cranberries

The health effects of cranberries are based on the phytochemicals they contain and the effects of vitamins and trace elements. Phytochemicals are biochemically and active ingredients, which include e.g. flavonoids. Phytochemicals give berries their color and taste, in addition to which they act like vitamins as antioxidants.

The health effects of cranberries have been studied especially in connection with urinary tract infections treatments for the elderly. Studies have shown that cranberry juice makes it difficult for bacteria to attach to the inner surface of the bladder, which in turn prevents inflammatory conditions.

Such an effect is due to the dyes, tannins, and proanthocyanins in the cranberry, which paralyze the attachment vermin of the inflammatory coliform bacteria, preventing them from adhering to the inner surface of the bladder. The same effect is also found in the fruit sugar of berries. Many vitamins and trace elements in berries also fight inflammation.

Cranberries are now used both as a preventive protective medicine and as supportive care during infections that have already occurred. The anti-bacterial properties of the berries, as well as the organic acids, malic, citric and benzoic acid compounds contained in the berry, make it an excellent antidote for stomach upsets.

In addition to urinary tract infections, the high intake of flavonoids found in berries has been studied to reduce the incidence of, for example, coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung and stomach cancer.

The acidity of cranberries also improves digestion. Indeed, the teachings of the old people often call for you to start eating a Christmas meal, for example, by consuming cranberry juice, which helps to digest a hearty meal.

There is another special health benefit in the marsh super berry. The bitter berry is rich in iodine, the lack of which leads to hypothyroidism, for example. When eaten regularly, cranberries can also have a positive effect on thyroid function.

Nutritional values

The health effects of cranberries also continue in terms of its nutritional values. The tart berry contains a particularly high content of both vitamin C and fiber, which make it a true super berry. There is 20mg of vitamin C in berries and 3.5 grams of fiber for every 100 grams.

Easily preserved berry

In addition to its other good aspects, cranberries are also very easy to preserve. No extra sugar is needed for freezing, as the benzoic acid found in the berries acts as a preservative, while the berries ’own fruit sugars take care of sweetening them. In addition, freezing reduces the acidity of the berries and brings out the sweetness found below better. The valuable phytochemicals of the berry are very resistant to freezing, and the color and bitterness do not disappear when the berries are jammed either.

It is also a good idea to steam the cranberry juice first without extra sugar, after which you can add sweetness to the drink itself, for example honey or sugar. If you want to go healthier when making juice, the most effective option in this respect is fresh juice ground from whole berries, ie nectar.

If you own a berry dryer, you can also dry straight berries, which are nice mouthfuls, for example on winter ski trips or hikes.

If you want to get there with very little effort, you can also store the berries as they are, for example in a bucket or in a cellar. In addition to its good shelf life, cranberries help less well-preserved fruits and vegetables to survive. It has been tested that a layer about a centimeter thick of crushed cranberries in apple sauce or on the surface of carrot jam protects less preserved foods like a layer of wax.

As food and drink

Cranberries have a wide range of uses and berries picked at different times of the year can also be used in different ways. Berries are generally used, for example, in berry soups, as well as as side dishes for porridge, oven dishes and various pastries.

The berries picked in the autumn contain a lot of pectin that promotes gelling, which makes it easy to make tasty jelly and marmalade. The berries that spent the winter under the snow layer are best suited for making juice and sima, for example.

As the appreciation of cranberries is also on the rise, there are many different recipes available today for a wide variety of flavors. Good cranberry recipes can be found on Delish website for example.

Sources and about the subject elsewhere: Martat | Aarrelehti | Arktiset Aromit

Artikkelin kuva: Anna-Liisa Sarajärvi

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