Its fruits can be picked as early as September, when they have coloured up beautifully. They will stay on the shrublets even until the end of winter.
We distinguish two major species of cranberry: Vaccinium oxycoccos, known as small cranberry, bog cranberry, swamp cranberry or just cranberry, which has smaller fruits (approximately one-centimetre large) and grows in Northern and Central Europe; and Vaccinium macrocarpon, known as large cranberry, American cranberry and bearberry, which produces fruits of up to three centimetres in diameter. The latter species comes from North America. The Indigenous peoples applied cranberry to wounds because it speeds up healing. In our continent it is valued for its multiple beneficent properties: it is antiseptic, antioxidative, as well as medicinal, e.g., in urinary tract and bladder infections. It also supports cancer treatment and protects the cardiovascular system.
The merits of cranberry are rather universally known, yet few choose fresh fruit or make preserves, which is a pity because the dried cranberry available in shops is usually sweetened, and ready made juices contain very little fruit. It is much better to make preserves yourself. Remember, however, that, when cooked, cranberry loses its antibacterial properties. If we freeze it, we will preserve its most important vitamins and ingredients, but will lose the qi – life energy (according to traditional Chinese medicine). In order to benefit from the cranberry’s full potential, we should make juice from its fresh fruit. I will tell you in secret: thanks to the wax layer that covers them, and the benzoic and citric acids they contain, fresh cranberries can last several months. To prevent them from wilting, pour a cold salt solution over them.
Cranberry contains the following: the already mentioned benzoic and citric acids, gallic and quinic acids, vitamin C, provitamin A, anthocyans, pectins, tannins, sugars, mineral substances including copper, molybdenum, manganese and cobalt, and even iodides. The bigger the fruits, the more active substances they contain.
Apart from juice, a very healthy concoction is cranberry liqueur, in the following proportions: 150 grams of fruit to approximately 0.5 litres of 40% alcohol. You may add three cloves or several cardamom seeds. After three weeks, pour the resulting dry liquid into a bottle. If you want a sweeter liqueur, add some honey or sugar syrup – 100 grams of sugar dissolved in 100 millilitres of water. This strengthening elixir, which also prevents infections of the urinary tract, should be taken in 10 millilitre doses. It helps with bladder and kidney inflammations while also blocking growth of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria responsible for gastric and duodenal ulcers.
Finally – an interesting fact – the North American species of our protagonist owes its name to sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) whose shape resembles that of cranberry flowers. Upon encountering the plants, European settlers named them ‘crane berries’, which later evolved into the English word used today. Cranes will be leaving Europe in October at the latest, but the cranberry medicine will keep us healthy throughout winter.
Translated from the Polish by Adam Zdrodowski
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