Thanksgiving weekend is upon us. The grocery flyers are filled with ads for turkeys, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie, and cranberries. Related recipes are everywhere.
There are many reasons I enjoy this time of year, not least among them the availability of fresh cranberries. I enjoy a good cranberry recipe and use these tart treats in a variety of dishes, both savoury and sweet. I make a point of ensuring that I have enough berries on hand to tuck in the freezer as well, so they can tide me through the off-season months. You can imagine, then, how pleased I was to discover that we have an actual cranberry farm within reasonable driving distance of our home.
Our local cranberry farm, Yellow Point Cranberries, is located just north of Ladysmith, near the Ladysmith Bog Ecological preserve. This acidic, boggy land is a perfect growing environment for cranberries. During the growing season, cranberry shrubs thrive on the moist, but not flooded, land. At harvest time, the cranberry beds are flooded and a harvester driven through them to remove the berries from the branches. The berries contain air pockets that cause them to float, so they rise to the surface of the water where they are corralled and then either gathered or pumped from the bed.
The cranberry harvest is a floating treasure. Not only do these beautiful red berries have tremendous flavour, they have nutritional and health benefits too:
Cranberries have moderate levels of vitamin C, dietary fiber and the essential dietary mineral, manganese, as well as a balanced profile of other essential micronutrients.
Raw cranberries are a source of polyphenol antioxidants, phytochemicals under active research for possible benefits to the cardiovascular system and immune system, and as anti-cancer agents.
Cranberry juice contains a high molecular weight non-dializable material that might inhibit formation of plaque by Streptococcus mutans pathogens that cause tooth decay. Cranberry juice components also may possibly influence formation of kidney stones.
There is laboratory evidence for the anti-clotting properties of cranberry tannins. They may prevent recurring urinary tract infections in women. Raw cranberries and cranberry juice are abundant food sources of flavonoids that have shown possible activity as anti-cancer agents.
The folks at Yellow Point Cranberries use their floating treasure well. They sell fresh cranberries and offer recipes for them on their website. The farm also makes a variety of dry mixes and preserves that are available year-round. There is a store at the farm—Cranberry Cottage—that is open daily, or you can order their mixes and preserves on line. The farm café is open in September and October, from noon until 3:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. You can drop by the farm for a self guided tour or, if you have a large enough group, book a guided tour.
This year fresh cranberries from Yellow Point Cranberries will be available at Merridale Estate Cidery in Cobble Hill (www.merridalecider.com), Averill Creek Vineyard in Duncan (www.averillcreek.ca) and Little Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville (www.cheeseworks.ca), but only until Thanksgiving. After that, all purchases must be made at the farm.
Starting Tuesday, November 1st and lasting until Thursday, November 10th, Yellow Point Cranberries will be hosting their first ever harvest days. I’m planning a visit to see the harvest, the flooded field, and the beautiful carpet of floating cranberries. I will, of course, be tasting products on offer at Cranberry Cottage too.
If you would like to find out more about Yellow Point Cranberries, read their recipes, or see a list of their products, please visit their website at http://www.yellowpointcranberries.com/index.html.