Mid-September marks the start of the cranberry season in British Columbia and the harvest of the first berries. Red fields of ripe cranberries is a feast for the eyes and, as the majority of cranberries are harvested between September and November, for the next few weeks masses of cranberries will be seen floating in the bogs around the lower mainland and Vancouver Island.
In Canada, most of the commercial production of the tart, red berry occurs in British Columbia and Québec. Cranberries grow on low lying vines and the BC Cranberry Marketing Commission talks of the most common harvest method in BC being a “wet or water harvest in which the beds are flooded and the fruit is ‘beaten’ off the vine using a specialized harvester”.
Origin of Cranberries
As one of the few commercially grown fruits native to North America, the cultivation of cranberries can be traced back almost 200 years. According to the BC Cranberry Marketing Commission, cranberries were a staple food for many indigenous people and are “woven into the fabric of North American tradition by the first settlers”.
Apparently, the early settlers referred to the fruit as a “crane berry” since the shape of the blossom resembles the head of a crane. Over time the fruit became called a “cranberry” and the berries were used in a variety of ways.
Nutrition Value of Cranberries
Cranberries are considered by some as one of the “superfoods” and Healthline suggests that although they are primarily made up of carbohydrates and fiber, cranberries are a “rich source of various bioactive plant compounds”. See Eat or Drink a Rainbow for more information on the importance of these compounds in foods.
Cranberries also have a high nutrient content including vitamins and minerals such as manganese, copper, and vitamins C, E, and K1.
Health Benefits of Cranberries
Healthline also suggest that cranberries may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, improve immune function and improve several risk factors for heart disease, including cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
In addition, cranberries may reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
Recipe for Cranberry and Almond Vegan Breakfast Bar
Although most popular around Thanksgiving and Christmas, cranberries tend to be available year-round and are a versatile fruit which can be used in both sweet and savory foods, snacks, beverages or in a great tangy salsa or chutney.
This recipe for a delicious oatmeal breakfast bar can be found at the Beaming Baker who describes them as “ soft, texture-rich energy breakfast bars bursting with cranberries and almonds”.
This recipe is vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free. Because it is easily portable, it also makes a delicious snack, picnic or breakfast food for the occasions when you may be pressed for time but still want to eat something healthy and nutritious.
- ¾ cup gluten free rolled oats
- ¼ cup gluten free oat flour
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
- ½ cup almonds, chopped
- 1 tbsp dried cranberries
- 1 tbsp almonds
- 2 tbsp flaxmeal
- 6 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
- 6 tbsp almond butter
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- To make the “flaxmeal egg”, leave flaxmeal and water to stand for about 15 minutes until gel forms.
- Melt coconut oil, almond butter, and vanilla over low heat.
- Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and using a rubber spatula, fold until well combined.
- Add flaxmeal egg and then fold in cranberries and almonds.
- Pour into the prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with cranberries and almonds.
- Bake for 22-28 minutes or until the edges turn a dark, golden brown.
- Place on a cooling rack for 1 hour, or until completely cool. Slice into 16 bars.
Regular rolled oats can be used if you are not concerned about gluten and the oat flour can be made by grinding about 1/3 cup of oats in a food processor until it forms a fine flour or use rice flour as a replacement.
I have usually used chia seeds as an egg replacement in baking and tried my first batch using them. I used flaxmeal for my next batch and preferred the results using flaxmeal for this recipe.
Also, I found the bars came out too thin using the 8-inch square pan and found a 6″ x 8″ pan provided slightly thicker bars.
When I visited a cranberry farm recently, it was interesting to learn that the success of the crop was dependent on the work of bees and that “every single berry that is produced has been a flower that a bee has touched and pollinated.”
Nature rarely seems to work alone and it is always interesting to see how one part of nature is often connected to another. Nature always manages to strike its own balance and cranberries are just one more delicious example of these amazing relationships we benefit from.
Other healthy snack, picnic or “on-the-go” breakfast foods: