The cranberry is a small, evergreen shrub and is one of the few fruits native to North America. The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant. It is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. It is edible, with an acidic taste that can overpower its sweetness.
Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in water. They are grown on sandy bogs or marshes. Because cranberries float, these bogs are flooded when the fruit is ready for harvesting. However, fresh cranberries are dry harvested by a mechanical picker and this is the best way to provide the freshest fruit.
Cranberry's medicinal properties have been recognized for centuries. Native Americans used raw cranberries primarily for treating urinary conditions. Early settlers from England learned to use the berry both raw and cooked for a number of ailments including appetite loss, digestive problems, blood disorders, and scurvy. Cranberry juice and extracts from the fruit (berry) are still used as a natural medicine and a probiotic.
One cup of whole unsweetened cranberries has about 45 calories and contains 4.6 grams fiber, 85 milligrams potassium and 13 milligrams Vitamin C.