Did you know? Cranberries have a natural antibiotic effect. Native Americans used them on wounds to stop bleeding. They also used the red dye from the berries to decorate fabrics. A fun activity to try with your students is to tie-dye a shirt with the juice from live cranberries.
As we reach the end of cranberry season, cranberry farmers put on their waders, walk into the cold autumn water and reel or comb the vibrant layer of red berries that float on the surface of the bog to pull them from their vines. Cranberries grow in a mineral rich environment of clay, sand, peat and gravel from the wetlands. In natural environments, the berries offer food to both wildlife and to beneficial fungi. This fungi allows the plant to absorb water and essential nutrients. They provide a symbiotic relationship; both helping each other’s growth. Not only is water harvesting a convenient way to farm this fruit, research has shown that by allowing the berries to float on the surface of water, there are better exposed to sunlight, increasing its phytonutrient (natural chemicals in plants that help protect us from disease) content and providing us with an increased array of health benefits.
The phytonutrients in cranberries known as anthocyanins are what helps protect us from urinary tract infections!
I often let students know that the red fruits and vegetables protect a red organ inside our bodies or our heart. Red = healthy heart
Cranberries also protect us from cancer, boost our immune system, help with digestive support and protect the tissues in our mouth.
Here’s something fun to try with your students. When cranberries are ripe, they bounce, and so are affectionately known as “bounceberries.”
Cranberries make us pucker:
They tend to be quite tart on their own. That’s not to say they aren’t edible raw, but most people prefer not to eat them like this. An eye-opening activity to do with students is to have them try both a raw cranberry and cooked cranberry and compare the tastes.
When cooked, they become much less sour (though still tart) and a bit sweeter. Of course homemade in their whole form is best. Commercially bought dried cranberries tend to contain a bucket load of added sugar!
With the holidays in full swing, your students will most probably find cranberries on their tables. Here are a couple of recipes to get them into the holiday spirit:
This first recipe is a easy way to add fruit to things that your students already love. They can add it to sandwiches; smear it over a stick of celery or toast. Dip carrots or apple slices into it. It’s a simply recipe that takes little preparation time. Maybe encourage your students to make these as holiday gifts for family, friends, or their lovely teachers.
- 10 oz cranberries, frozen or fresh
- 5 Apples, cored and large chop with skin intact (I prefer honey crisp apples)
- 1 cup apple cider
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup honey
- 1 tbs cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp clove
- ½ tsp all spice
- Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally.
- Once the apples have fully softened, puree all ingredients.
- Return the mixture to low heat on the stove and allow it to reduce to thicken. Stir occasionally.
- Once the mixture has reached a consistency that is thick and not runny, remove from heat and let it cool.
- Transfer contents into a jar and eat or store.
Cranberry Energy Bars
- 2 cups uncooked old fashioned oats
- 1 cup pumpkin seed butter or almond butter
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries, unsweetened
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup pistachios, chopped
- 5 tbs agave or honey
- 1 2 tbs flax seed, ground
- 2 tbs hemp seeds, hulled
- 1/4 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tbs cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Spread the oats over a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet and bake until slightly browned (about 8 minutes).
- Place the oats in a mixing bowl with the flax seeds, hemp seeds, cranberries, raisins and pistachios.
- Combine the pumpkin seed butter (or almond butter), honey (or agave),1 tsp of the coconut oil, salt, and cinnamon into a saucepan and cook over medium heat and stir until the mixture begins to melt.
- Remove from heat and pour the mixture over the rest of the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix all ingredients so they are all evenly coated.
- Coat an 8” square glass baking dish (or a similar size) with the remaining coconut oil and press the oat mixture into the bottom of the dish. Cut into it evenly to create the size bars desired.
- Bake at 350° for about 10-12 minutes.
- Let cool and separate bars.