Fresh cranberries are only in season for a few months and worth buying to make a fresh cranberry sauce, add to baked goods, or even to add a pop of flavor to meatier dishes.
When are cranberries in season?
Fresh cranberries start to become available in September and last through about December. They are native to North America and 50% of the crops are grown in the Northeast and Northern Midwest. Oregon and Washington also grow cranberries.
They ship very well across the country.
Fresh cranberries are usually sold in plastic bags. Lighter red berries will have more pectin, which thickens a homemade cranberry sauce. Darker red berries tend to have slightly more juice but won't necessarily taste sweeter.
The berries should be firm and no juice should have accumulated in the bag (a sign they are no longer fresh). They don't have much of a smell when they are fresh.
When cranberries go bad and have started to spoil, they will have the following characteristics:
- Soft or mushy
- Skin starts to shrivel
- They smell sour, or a little off
Cranberries should be refrigerated and they will last a month (or more). They can also be frozen and can be kept for a year - just toss the entire bag of cranberries in the freezer!
Can you eat raw cranberries?
You can definitely eat raw cranberries and it is entirely safe to do so. They provide excellent health benefits. However, even when at their peak season, they are sour, bitter, and crunchy (not sweet and soft like a blueberry).
It's unlikely you will enjoy eating raw cranberries whole, by snacking on them like blueberries, you can add them to other recipes in small amounts. For example, blend them into a dressing, add chopped cranberries to a salad, yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, ice cream, or even on top of a roasted piece of beef or pork.
Most people are eating raw cranberries for health, as opposed to a tasty snack. To become the delicious sweet-tart treat we are used to, a lot of sugar is added. And while totally okay, many people need to (or want to) limit added sugars, which is why they prefer options for using raw cranberries.
Cranberries have a lot of fiber and antioxidants per serving, making them a highly nutritious fruit. Their is some research that also shows cranberries can help prevent urinary tract infections, but the research is mixed.
Cranberry recipe collection
Looking for a good cranberry sauce recipes? I've gathered a dozen from my favorite sources for you to choose from. Or browse through 50 other uses for cranberries, or what else to cook with in November.