What’re Cranberries?

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Cranberries, also known as lingonberries, are small red fruits closely related to cranberries. They grow in mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere and are a popular food in Scandinavia. They are rich in vitamins and have compounds that fight infections, especially urinary tract infections. They are usually sweetened before serving and can be found in the form of preserves or jams.

Cranberries are small red fruits that are closely related to cranberries. In fact, some people call cranberries “mountain cranberries” or “dried cranberries,” which can be confusing since there are quite a few differences between plants and their fruits. Cranberries are found widely distributed in the mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere and are a popular food berry, especially in Scandinavia.

The English name for this fruit is taken directly from the Swedish lingon. Botanists know cranberries as Vaccinium vitis-idaea, and some people even refer to them as “cranberries,” perhaps because they’ve traditionally been used as forage by cows and reindeer. The cranberry relish is also a traditional accompaniment to many meats in Scandinavia, much like cranberry sauce in more southern climates.

Cranberry bush is a small evergreen shrub with a creeping growth habit that prefers moist, acidic soil. It is often found in forests and can grow in harmony with an assortment of lichens and mosses. Cranberries are spread with the use of rhizomes, extensive underground root systems, and produce small white flowers that are shaped like bells. The flowers develop into bright red fruit that can be picked during the harvest season. While the red color may be enticing, these berries are intensely bitter, so consumers usually resist the urge to eat them plain.

In addition to being found in Scandinavia, cranberries also grow in North America and parts of Russia. These small red fruits are not as widely grown as cranberries and can be difficult to obtain outside their native habitat, despite the efforts of cranberry farmers who would like to see a larger market for the fruit. Like cranberries, cranberries are distinctively tart and are usually sweetened before serving; Cranberry jam, syrup and compote are all common offerings in Scandinavia and can also be used to make dressings and sauces.

In addition to sharing a tart flavor with cranberries, cranberries also have the same chemical compounds that fight infections, especially urinary tract infections. Plus, they’re rich in vitamins A, B, and C, along with essential fatty acids. In the cold climates of Scandinavia, preserved cranberries likely helped people survive the winter without a ready source of plant nutrition. If you don’t live in a region where fresh cranberries are available, you may find them in the form of preserves or jams, especially if you have a large Swedish population.

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