The All-American Fruit
Were cranberries on the table at the first Thanksgiving feast shared by the English Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag people in 1621? Maybe, say food historians. Cranberry sauce, as we know it, was unlikely part of the menu. Sugar was in short supply, if it was available at all, and the first mention of boiling cranberries with sugar doesn’t appear in print for another 50 years. But, say the folks at Plimoth Plantation (a museum in Plymouth, Mass., that replicates the 17th-century settlement), cranberries may well have turned up in dishes shared by Wampanoag guests.
It’s known that Native Americans brewed the berries into calming tea and poultices to help wounds heal. Later, American whalers kept vitamin C–rich cranberries on board to help prevent scurvy. Modern-day research finds the fruit may have many other benefits.