Many of us do not think of fresh fruit when fall is in full swing, but there are two fall staples that have been a traditional part of our autumn menus: cranberries and, more recently, pomegranates. These two-jeweled fruits add more than just a pop of color to our sometimes-monotone fall dishes.
Cranberries pack a punch in a little package. The North American berry was used by the Native Americans as medicine, as well as decoration, as the berries extract a red dye. They were also known to sweeten the berries with maple syrup or honey–a dish that was very likely served during the first Thanksgiving. The Natives were on to something using the berries medicinally; as we now know, cranberries carry great health benefits, such as UTI prevention. Cranberries are also a great source of anti-oxidants, phytonutrients, immunity support, and have powerful anti-cancer properties. Additionally, cranberries are great for digestive health. Cranberries are farmed using a water harvest method. The berries are grown on floating water bogs. This was originally a method used for convenience, otherwise the small berries are difficult to harvest. New research is showing that because of this method cranberries are getting all their amazing health benefits. The thought behind this is that the more reflected sunlight the berries receive the higher the phytonutrients.
Cranberries are very tart when eaten raw so many recipes you will find have them cooked and sweetened. The berries are versatile with sweet or savory dishes as their strong flavor profile is tart, which lends itself to desserts. Their acidity also cuts through fatty dishes, leaving a nice finish. Sweetened dried cranberries also make great snacks or wonderful additions to salads.
Until recently these fruits have been a bit of a mystery in the U.S. Pomegranates are native to Iran, but can be found almost anywhere, from southern Europe to Arizona. It is believed by many that Eve ate a pomegranate, not an apple. Egyptians were buried with them, as they believed it gave them eternal life, and the Chinese eat them as good luck. This exotic super-fruit has more than mythical powers; pomegranates are extremely high in anti-oxidants, a great source of fiber, high in vitamin C, B vitamins, and high in anti-cancer properties. They are often thought as one of the coveted super foods.
The arils are filled with juicy cherry-like flavored sacs. The easiest way to open a pomegranate is to cut off the top with a sharp knife, making five shallow cuts from the top to the base, and then place the fruit in cold water, carefully breaking each section apart and gently pushing the seeds out with fingertips. The seeds will sink to the bottom and the white pith will rise to the top.
Like cranberries, pomegranates pair well with sweet and savory dishes. They also make a beautiful garnish, which is helpful in the fall season, as we tend to eat fewer colorful foods. Pomegranates are also wonderful with cheeses, chocolates, lamb, and winter squashes.