Fall Foods & Spices ~ Cranberry Cures

Cranberry {Vaccinium macrocarpon}

Stunning, ruby-red berries are the signature of the cranberry vine and a sure sign that autumn has arrived. Exceedingly tart – enough to give one a full face pucker – cranberries are a traditional food of Northern America. The larger variety V. macrocarpon grows in North America, while a smaller variety, V. oxy-coccus, thrives in Europe. We can use both interchangeably. In North America, Native Americans looked to cranberries as food and medicine. The Wampanoag introduced cranberries to the colonists and they soon became popular folk medicine for digestive distress, skin issues, scurvy, and urinary problems.

Modern Medicine:

Cranberries contain a spectacular amount of healthy properties. They’re very high in vitamin C, and also contain vitamin E, fiber, protein, iron, magnesium, calcium, and beta-carotene.

Of course, most people know this fruit as a time-honored folk remedy for urinary tract infections {UIT’s}. Sixty percent of women will develop a UTI at least once in their lives; drinking 1 1/2 cups of cranberry juice a day reduces bacteria and can cut the incidences of UTI’s by 50 percent. While it was once believed that the acidic juice made the bladder inhospitable to bacteria, recent studies have found that it’s cranberry’s proanthocyanidins {a class of polyphenols} which prevent bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder, thus allowing it to be flushed from the body. Further studies have shown that proanthocyanidins prevent the H. pylori bacteria {the main cause of most ulcers} from attaching to the stomach lining, and inhibit plaque bacteria from forming on teeth and gums. If cranberry juice isn’t an option, try cranberry capsules, which offer concentrated effectiveness and work better for some folks.

Consult a physician if you have kidney stones or are taking medications for ulcers or blood thinners before using cranberries medicinally.

Cranberry Vinegar

The light colored vinegar in this recipe lets the ruby-red cranberry shine through for a tart and flavorful condiment. Use on salads, as a marinade, or however, you’d like to enjoy it.

16 oz. vinegar {rice, champagne, or white}

16 oz. cranberries, fresh

Half the peel from a quarter of fresh orange, pith removed

1-inch fresh ginger, thinly sliced with skin removed

Combine vinegar and cranberries and muddle. Add to a glass canning jar along with orange and ginger. Cover with a plastic lid. Store in cool dark place for two days to two weeks, depending on your taste.

Strain and bottle. Keep it in the fridge.