Cranberries have been a part of New England history since Squanto introduced them to the Pilgrims, likely as a survival food with medicinal qualities, because the Pilgrims were in such poor health. I was told that one reason that cranberry sauce was served with turkey every November was to remember Squanto, and the first Thanksgiving.
The process of growing cranberries has been mechanized, and they are seldom picked wild any more. They may also lack some of the nutritional and medicinal value they once possessed, through mass production in artificial bogs. Therefore I was glad to come across a wild patch while hiking with the children.
It is interesting to introduce small children to Cranberries, as they are very sour. I tend to fall back on an old ploy, which is to munch away, all the time telling them they can’t have any, because it is a “grown-up food”. I explain it is “way too sour” and “you won’t like it.” Often this is enough to get the more disobedient children surreptitiously nibbling, when they think I’m not looking, while the majority set up a chorus of “Please let us try it. Puh-leese!” (Of course, if I told them to try it and that it was good for them, they’d refuse.)
Finally, with a great display of reluctance, I relent and allow them to try a single berry, urging them to spit it out if it is too sour. And in fact most do spit the berry out, but there are always a few who bravely munch away, even pretending it isn’t all that sour. (And I suppose, to certain taste-buds, the sourness may actually be less. I know that broccoli is very bitter to some children, but not bitter at all to others.)
I exclaim with the children over how sour the berries are, making faces and squirming in a manner that I imagine conveys the taste of a lemon, yet all the while I continue to pick and munch the fruits. You’d be surprised how quickly the children pick a second berry and give the fruit a second chance. By the end nearly every child is munching away.
I suppose it just demonstrates how effective reverse psychology is.
Cranberries often can be found even in the winter, if the first freeze is fast and lasting. They can be popped into a freezer in a similar manner, or dried. They are a good winter survival food because they have vitamin C which prevents winter scurvy, and also manganese which assists the immune system with antioxidant properties. There are also various claims about cranberry’s ability to prevent and even cure urinary infections.
However I think its greatest value is that it teaches children sour fruits can be palatable, and everything doesn’t need to be drenched in sugar and corn syrup to be edible.