Turkey's great and stuffing has its place, but let's be honest, November is the season for cranberries. And while this delicious berry makes its way to our tables (and our hearts) each holiday season, there's a lot to learn about this curious little fruit.

1. Cranberries and America go waaaaaaaaay back.

This tart little fruit has a rich history in the United States. Cranberries are one of the three fruits native to America that are still commercially grown today. Native Americans used cranberries for food and medicine, as its anti-inflammatory capabilities made it a powerful healing agent.


Image by How Does It Grow/YouTube.

2. Cranberries got their name from an iconic bird.

Each spring, small, pink blossoms emerge on cranberry vines. They hang down in a cone shape, like the bill of a sandhill crane. As such, the fruit was originally called a "craneberry." As language does when we get lazy with it, it gradually shifted to "cranberry."

Cranberry blossoms in spring. Image via How Does It Grow/Youtube.

3. Contrary to popular belief (and all those Ocean Spray commercials) cranberries don't actually grow underwater.

When you see pictures of cranberry fields, it often appears as though the berries grow in water, but that's not the case. Cranberries grow on vines in wetland beds layered with sand, gravel, clay, and peat, which is partially decomposed vegetable matter.

These sunken beds are called bogs.

A cranberry bog close-up. Image via How Does It Grow/Youtube.

Farmers flood the bogs twice each year — first, in December, to protect the dormant cranberry plants from severe winter weather.

All GIFs via How Does It Grow/Youtube.

Then the following October, farmers flood the bog once more and use commercial tools to shake the vines and release the ripe berries, which float on the water.

Then farmers corral the fruit and load it onto trucks. This process is called a wet harvest.

4. About 768 million pounds of cranberries are grown in the U.S. each year.

Americans consume about 400 million pounds of the tart fruit, and nearly 20% of the harvest is gobbled up the week of Thanksgiving. Sorry, gravy.

That's not Mars. Those are cranberries on the surface of the water before they're corralled onto a truck. GIF via How Does It Grow/Youtube.

5. The state that produces the most cranberries in the world is best known for producing cheese.

You can find commercial cranberry bogs in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. And while the state is best known for cheese, Wisconsin is actually the #1 producer of cranberries in the world, raising over 450 million pounds in 2012.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank (left) and Kate VandenBosch, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, wade into knee-deep water at Cranberry Creek Cranberries Inc. in Necedah, Wisconsin. Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison, used with permission.

6. Only 5% of cranberries are sold as fresh fruit.

The rest are sold as juice, cranberry sauce, as dried cranberries, or powdered for medicines.

Image via How Does It Grow/Youtube.

7. There are nearly 10 pounds of cranberries in a gallon of cranberry juice.

That's about 4,400 berries to a bottle! Holy freaking cranberries, Batman!

Photo by Andrew Yee/Flickr.

8. There are eight places in the U.S. named Cranberry, or a close variation of the word.

Including not one but two places called Cranberry Township in Pennsylvania, which isn't confusing at all. Sadly, none of these places are neighbors to Turkey, Texas, or Turkey Creek, Louisiana, which seems like a real missed opportunity if you ask me.

Over the river and through the woods to Cranberry! Photo by Gerrit Quast/Flickr.

9. Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and helpful nutrients.

Cranberries are a super-fruit of sorts, with many concentrated health benefits. The berries are a natural source of lutein, which is great for eye health, and quercetin, which acts as an anti-inflammatory and may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

Farmers harvest cranberries from a flooded bog at Cranberry Creek Cranberries. Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison.

All this to say that cranberries are pretty darn amazing.

They are good for your body, a big boost for the economy, and one of America's oldest and most beloved crops. They're not the new turkey, but in the war of side dishes and turkey accompaniments, cranberries are definitely giving gravy a run for its money.

Mmmmm cranberry sauce. In your face, gravy. Photo by didriks/Flickr.

See the cranberry growing process from start to finish in this short video from How Does It Grow:

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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