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December 10, 2013 > Pat Kites Garden: Cranberry Cuisine

Pat Kites Garden: Cranberry Cuisine

By Pat Kite

My daughter insists I make fresh cranberry sauce for our Holiday dinner. Every year I concoct this, and every year it tastes like pucker central. Nobody eats it, so I take home the leftovers.

Since I hate wasting food, I try to make something with the leftovers, such as cranberry chutney. After a week or so, I plop the resulting concoction into my compost pile, otherwise I will eat it all despite the taste.

Resident sparrows check out the compost pile. Eventually it becomes worm food if worms like cranberries. Actually, cranberries are rather healthy, containing Vitamin A, C, and potassium. Our Native Americans were using wild cranberries long before Columbus parked his boots on the new world. Names varied: ÒSassamaneshÓ by eastern Indians and ÒAtoquaÓ by the Algonquians in Wisconsin. These names more or less translate as Òsour berries.Ó In that long ago organic world, Native Americans cooked cranberries with dried deer meat and melted fat for a winter survival meal, sweetening it with maple sugar or honey.

Cranberries and cornmeal were baked to make bread. Cape Cod tribes used a cranberry dressing to treat wounds from poisoned arrows. Cranberry juice dye colored rugs, clothing and blankets. Our Pilgrims learned from the Indians, creating sauces, cranberry tarts and cranberry drinks. They apparently coined the word ÒcranberryÓ coming from Òcrane berryÓ since the plantÕs pale pink flowers resembled the head of cranberry-nibbling sand-hill crane birds.

About 200 years after Pilgrim landing, MassachusettsÕs settlers began cultivating cranberries in drained bogs with acid subsoil. Among other uses was protecting sailors against scurvy. Today, about two-thirds of our nationÕs crop comes from the sandy bogs of Cape Cod.

I know somebody is going to ask me if they can grow cranberries in their backyard. From a garden book, I quote, ÒUnless your garden is a bog there is only one practical way to grow Cranberries. Dig a hole about one yard square and one spit deep. Line it with polythene and fill with a mixture of three parts moss peat, one part loam, one part sharp sand and one part sawdustÉÓ Etc.

Since most folk have cranberry sauce at a seasonal Holiday dinner, and have family who prefer canned to my home-macerated concoction, thanks go to Elizabeth Lee. She was a New Jersey cranberry farmer who first made cranberry sauce. In 1917 she began selling it in cans, labeled ÒBog Sweet.Ó Later she joined up with Marcus Urann of Massachusetts. Together they formed the company known as Ocean Spray. Today the company harvests over 120 million pounds of cranberries.

I shall think of this during my Holiday dinnerÉ burp. And a Happy Newest Year to you-all.

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