The history of the cranberry through the centuries.
The Native Americans made pemmican – a preserved high-energy cake that kept for a very long time – from deer meat and mashed cranberries. The cranberry is a berry that was well known to them for its natural benefits. Natural healers used the fruit in poultices to draw out the poison from arrow wounds. The rich red colour of the cranberry served as a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing. The Native Americans of Delaware in New Jersey also wore the cranberry as a symbol of peace.
The cranberry is one of the only native fruits that is cultivated in the North American continent (alongside the blueberry and Concord grape). It is known by various names. East Indians knew the berry as “sassamanesh”, while the Pequots of Cape Cod and the Leni-Lenape tribes of South Jersey knew them as “ibimi”, or “sour berry”, and the Algonquins from Wisconsin, “atoqua”.
It was not until the Dutch and German settlers named it “crane berry” – the cranberry flower resembles the head and beak of a crane – that the fruit received the name by which we know it today: “cranberry”.
According to legend, the pilgrim fathers served cranberries with wild turkey and succotash (a dish made of corn and beans) as the first Thanksgiving meal in Plymouth, USA. At the time of the great expeditions of the clippers and whalers, American sailors also ate them to combat scurvy. During the Second World War, American troops consumed almost 500,000 kilos of dried cranberries every year.