Vaccinium Oxycoccus / Vaccinium Macrocarpon
These sour berries look like small cherries: little red lights on a green background that provide Christmas colors beginning in late July. But there are also white cranberries. They grow in the poor acidic soil of shore regions and peat bogs and can live for over 100 years.
The word cranberry comes from the German "Kranbeere," meaning "crane berry," since when they first bloom, the flowers bend towards the ground like a crane.
Vaccinium is the ancient Latin name (having pre-Roman origins) for cranberries and blueberries. Oxycoccos is formed from the Greek "oxus" (acid), and "kokkos" (berry).
A little history
North American Indians use the white Ungava cranberry, which they gather after the first frosts and before the first snowfall, to counteract the ill effects of overindulging in meat.
Some tribes believed the berries to be a providential gift from mythical giants who were thrown into pits. They were eventually covered over by soil that brought forth white and red berries that could be dried and strung into necklaces.
Native people also used cranberries to add flavour and vitamins to pemmican (a mixture of dried meat and fat that ensured winter survival), as a useful poultice for wounds and as a clothing dye.
Some confusion exists in Europe. This species is one of four members of the genus Vaccinium. The others are the alpine cranberry (or cowberry), the bilberry and the blueberry.
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