Christmas Cranberries

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by Teri Pizza

Want a healthy alternative to all that alcohol? Cranberry tea is a great way to celebrate booze-free

Some fresh fruits and vegetables are loved all year round, found in the grocery store at every season and heralded as classic favorite of American households no matter what the calendar says. Then there are others, like the pumpkin, the acorn squash, and the cranberry, that enjoy very specific hey-days, where they’re suddenly the special guest at the party. This season, let’s celebrate the beloved cranberry in all its seasonal glory.

Cranberries are loved this time of year not only because they are agriculturally in season, but also because they provide vitamins not readily available in other fresh fruits during the winter. Their tartness is also an excellent means of cutting the fat and richness of things like pork, goose, duck and turkey, and of course, we can’t leave out the fact that they’re pretty, with the color of the season and all.

These little berries also have some interesting trivia, like their pseudonym, the “bounceberry.” They earned this curious nickname when it was discovered, centuries ago, that they could bounce, which quickly became the favorite way of identifying which berries were the ripest. The verdict: the best berries bounce.

Besides being interesting, the cranberry is full of nutritional benefits, including the ability to improve the lives of people who suffer from stomach ulcers, cavities and heart disease. Some actually call the fruit “better than broccoli” because it delivers five times the antioxidant content of the green stuff. In fact, when compared to 19 common fruits, cranberries contained the highest level of the cancer-fighting antioxidant phenols. The reason for cranberries’ reputation to treat and fight urinary tract infections is because its juice contains hippuric acid which helps reduce the ability of E. coli bacteria to stick to the walls of urinary tracts. In addition, cranberries may also lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol as well as support oral health, prevent kidney stones, help in the fight against cancer forming cells, and support gastrointestinal health. With only 51 calories per 110g serving, this berry deserves the title of “little dynamo.”

Not as fragile as softer-skinned berries, the cranberry should still be handled with care. Select berries that are deep-red in color, plump and firm. Sort out and discard soft, pitted, or discolored fruit. Berries can be stored in the refrigerator for two or three months or in the freezer for up to two years. Before cooking, remove shriveled berries and stems and rinse them under cool water.

The best berries are fresh berries since they contain the greatest number of vitamins and nutrients. So, stock up on when you see them available in the produce department. And rest assured, they’ll stay frozen for years – and many a holiday season!

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More great tips and recipes are in Teri Pizza’s books, Simplicity of Fresh Produce and ENJOY! Recipes for Fresh Produce, available Amazon.com.

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