I tried cranberries for the first time about a year ago. I don’t know why it took me so long to try them but I’m so glad I finally did. My favourite drink du jour is a cranberry smoothie and I don’t mind the odd cranberry and vodka drink, although I’m not too sure that’s the healthiest way to get your cranberry intake.
If you don’t know, cranberries are little red berries which are high in vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium, dietary fibre, and very high in antioxidants. They have quite a tart taste which I find quite unusual but have grown to love.
Everyone knows we should eat more fruit and vegetables but it’s also important to eat a wide variety of fruit and veges. It’s easy to add cranberries, or any berries, to your diet. Add a few cranberries to any smoothie or make (or buy) cranberry juice. A glass of cranberry juice a day will significantly add to your antioxidant intake. Cranberries are also popular in jams, preserves, and sauces. They are low in calories, fat, and natural sugars and have a low glycemic index. Don’t worry if you can’t find fresh cranberries as the frozen ones are pretty good, although organic is always better.
Health Benefits of Cranberry Juice
Adding cranberries to your diet has many health benefits with the most well known being that they help prevent urinary tract infections such as cystitis. Cranberry juice can help prevent tooth decay (provided there is no sugar is added) and bad breath. The high level of antioxidants and phytonutrients may help protect against heart disease and cancer. Basically they’re beneficial for all round general health.
Cranberries are generally regarded as safe to eat, however certain people should avoid them or limit their intake. Cranberry juice can reduce the effectiveness of certain medications such as antacid medications. Consumption of large amounts of juice can lead to diarrhoea and gastrointestinal problems due to the high acid levels found in the fruit. Taking cranberry supplements is a great way to gain the benefits of cranberries but they are not advised for pregnant or lactating women or for people with kidney stones.
Organic cranberries and cranberry products are available online in Australia from a number of websites. The Whisk and Pin and Austral Herbs websites sell cranberries imported from Canada. At $8.50 for 80 grams they’re not cheap. The Whisk and Pin also sells Organic Cranberry and Organic Pancake Mix. The Organic Grocer sells Organic Cranberry and Orange Spread and Organic Sparkling Cranberry and Lime juice. Lettuce Deliver Organics also has a few organic cranberry options.
Where to Buy Cranberries
Cranberries are generally grown in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the US and Canada so fresh cranberries are not that easy to find, plus they only have a short season. Frozen cranberries are available from most Coles supermarkets and some independent supermarkets. Cranberry juice and cranberry sauce is widely available in supermarkets.
How to Grow Cranberries
If you want to grow your own, cranberry plants can be purchased at Diggers. Cranberries are generally grown in North America so I’m not sure how they go in Australia. Try to buy a plant which is at least 3 years old and preferably with a few berries on it so you’ll have a good chance of getting fruit the following year. You can find details on how to grow cranberries here. The cranberry plant is a low shrub or groundcover so for best results you need to encourage the runners to spread out and cover the ground and once this is established let them produce their uprights which are where the flowers and berries grow. As with all gardening, soil preparation is very important. Cranberries grow best in peat moss with a little blood and bone added. Keep the peat moss moist but not wet. The plants are self pollinating so you shouldn’t have any problems getting fruit. Make sure you protect them from frost. They should be ready for picking in early autumn.