Going wild with cranberries

Cranberries aren’t just for accompanying that Thanksgiving turkey. The shiny, red fruit can make a delicious and colorful addition to dishes throughout the holiday season.

It’s also versatile. The cranberry’s tart, vibrant taste pairs well with both sweet and savory flavors from white chocolate to cilantro. And, dried cranberries can be added to any recipe that calls for other dried fruits, such as raisins.

The berries, also known as bounceberries and craneberries, grow in sandy bogs on low, trailing vines, according to Barron’s “The New Food Lover’s Companion” by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst.

It says the berries, native to North America, are extensively cultivated, mainly in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington, and harvested between Labor Day and the end of October. They are usually packed in 12-ounce plastic bags, and their peak market is between the holiday period from October through December.

For Christmas, New Year’s or Mardi Gras parties, try unexpected appetizers such as Tex-Mex Cranberry Salsa, Fresh Blueberry and Cranberry Relish, and the Fresh Cranberry Salsa recipe shared by Corinne Cook in Gourmet Galley on Page 2E.

Cranberries also work in brines for pork, chicken or turkey.

And, of course, the bite-sized cranberries are superb in desserts, such as Rustic Cherry Berry Pie Pops, and holiday drinks, such as Champagne and Cranberry Juice Sparkling Punch.

More cranberry info

Cranberries are very high in Vitamin C and rich in nutrients. Studies suggest cranberry consumption contributes to preventative health, particularly improved cardiovascular and urinary tract health, as part of a balanced diet and healthful lifestyle, says the agricultural cooperative Ocean Spray.

Cranberries are naturally low in sugar. To counter their tartness, they need sweetening or should be combined with other fruits.

Cranberries, if tightly wrapped, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months or in the freezer for a year.

Don’t use discolored or shriveled berries.

For additional information about cranberries, visit http://www.cranberryhealth.com or http://www.oceanspray.com.