You're probably familiar with cranberries from consuming one of the many commercial products made with these cultivated beauties: cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, or dried cranberries. But you need not purchase them to experience their flavor, as they grow in the wild throughout New England. Cranberries are in the same genus (Vaccinium) as blueberries, and like blueberries, they tend to grow in acidic soils. I found these plants growing in a dense patch on the edge of a small pond.
I generally avoid eating “food products”, preferring instead to focus on whole foods and simple cooking techniques. So, while I've tasted various store-bought cranberry-flavored foods and drinks in the past, these days I stick to the real thing, without added sugar and chemicals.
While picking some cranberries last week, I tasted several fresh, savoring their bright flavor on my palette. Each one popped and released a burst of tart juice. Later I bagged and froze the majority of my haul, though I also added some to apple sauce (made with Northern Spy and Golden Russet apples, and some cinnamon) and tossed handfuls into soups. What do you do with fresh cranberries?
If you find a patch of ripe cranberries, take some time to comb through the plants. I found that much of the fruit lies close to the ground, hidden among the leafy stems. And while you gather, stay alert to the wildlife nearby. Is anyone else eating the fruit? Are there birds calling nearby?