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As America’s Original Superfruit ®, Native Americans used the cranberries as a staple as early as 1550. They ate cranberries fresh, ground, or mashed with cornmeal and baked it into bread. They also mixed berries with wild game and melted fat to form pemmican, a survival ration for the winter months. Maple sugar or honey was used to sweeten the berry’s tangy flavor.
By 1620 Pilgrims learned how to use cranberries from the Native Americans. There are several theories of how the berry was named. Germany and Dutch settlers named the berry “crane-berry” because it appeared to be the favorite food of cranes or the blossom resembles the head and neck of an English crane. Eventually “crane-berry” was shortened to cranberry. By 1683 cranberry juice was made by the settlers.
The uses of cranberries are extensive — American whalers and mariners carried cranberries onboard to prevent scurvy while Indians brewed cranberry poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds and in tea to calm nerves as well as using the juice as a dye.