What do you know about cranberries? It is something that a lot of us buy during the holidays. Most of us don’t know much about this tart, tasty red berry.Cranberries are native to North America and were originally called the “craneberry” by Pilgrims because the small pink flowers that bloom in the spring resemble the head and bill of a crane.Television commercials have us believing cranberries grow in water, but actually they grow on vines in special beds called bogs which are flooded with water prior to harvesting. Because cranberries have pockets of air inside the fruit, they float in water. This makes it much easier to harvest with special equipment that stirs the water, removing the berries from the vines.Fresh, whole cranberries are available in stores in November and December. They will keep refrigerated for a month or frozen in airtight containers for up to 12 months. For best results in most recipes, use the berries while they are still frozen.Cranberries can be used chopped or whole in breads, pancakes, muffins and salads. They can be cooked whole and made into a sauce or chopped with other ingredients to make a relish.Whatever recipe you choose, you will need to add sugar or an alternative sweetener: this red berry is too tart to eat alone. Because it is so tart, 100 percent cranberry juice is not available: Cranberry juice drinks are only about 25 percent juice. Juices are either sweetened with sugar, an alternative sweetener or blended with other naturally sweet juices. Those sweetened with sugar have more calories. A sugar-sweetened juice has about 120 calories per cup while those with alternative sweeteners have about 45 calories per cup. Even dried cranberries have added sweetener. A handful of sugar-sweetened dried cranberries or “craisins” has nearly 100 calories.Cranberries are well known for their help in preventing urinary tract infections. The beneficial effect is preventive only and is not a treatment to cure an infection. More research is needed to determine the health benefits of cranberries. Cranberries are colorful and are easily used for holiday cooking. Using the cranberry in holiday cooking is one way to work more fruits into your diet. Here are some quick-to-fix ideas: Take your favorite cheese ball and roll it in chopped cranberries and nuts. No time to make a cheese ball? Use a log of goat cheese and you’ve got an instant appetizer.Use your favorite quick bread recipe and add fresh, frozen or dried cranberries in place of other fruit. Or add the cranberries to make it a two fruit bread. Add cranberries to your favorite trail mix. Add dried or chopped fresh cranberries with apples or pears to your favorite greens for a colorful salad.