Denali’s Low Bush Cranberries
Low bush cranberries are a real Alaskan treat! We were delighted to find the antioxidant powerhouses (also known as lingonberries) in Denali National Park. They were tart, but after tasting one, it was hard to stop popping them in my mouth.
A University of Fairbanks study titled The antioxidant level of Alaska’s wild berries: high, higher and highest found that Alaskan wild berries ranged from 3 to 5 times higher in antioxidant value than similar berries from the lower 48.
The researchers measured lingonberries’ antioxidant score at 206, far higher than those of the three other berries they tested. But if you think about it, that makes perfect sense!
Plants under stress produce more antioxidants. Can you think of a more stressful place to live than in the shadow of North America’s tallest mountain?
Facing brutal weather in every season – and getting just four hours of sunlight during the winter – lingonberries have thrived to become one of the world’s most robust fruits.
We didn’t harvest any of the Denali berries to take with us, but it’s possible to eat them out of season. The study also found that dehydrating fresh lingonberries raises their antioxidant scores even more:
“When berries were dehydrated, per gram ORAC values skyrocketed. Dried lingonberries had an ORAC score 5 times higher than the control.”
How can this be? They continue:
“Testing revealed that dried fruits and fruit leathers concentrated the skin and pulp and removed moisture, thereby significantly increasing the antioxidant levels in each gram of product.”
I love that this particular study presented the benefits not only of eating the berries, but also of searching for and preparing them:
“Gathering berries, then processing them for longer storage, provides healthy food in addition to benefits of physical activity, fresh air, spending time with family and friends and engaging in traditional and subsistence activities.”
So the next time I’m out hiking, I’ll be on the lookout for berries that can handle the toughest environment – because they’ll be best at fighting the toughest free radicals. Until then, freeze dried low-bush cranberries will get me through!