The redder the better. As you prepare your next holiday feast, make sure the cranberries for your sauce are colour-rich, for flavour and flavonoids.

It was Mary Ann Lila, director of North Carolina State University's Plants for Human Health Institute, whointroduced me to xenohormes: the study of molecules such as plant polyphenols (indicate stress in the plants) and how such flavonoids can have "longevity-conferring effects for consumers of those plants." We were speaking about berries back in 2013 and why those that grow in northern climates are better as they develop protective compounds to contend with cooler temperatures, among other things. 

A drop in temperature is exactly what cranberry farmers like Janina May and her son Jean-Pierre Schneider wait for.Crops aren't picked, or rather the bogs aren't flooded until as late as mid-November to give the berries time to develop that rich cranberry colour – an indicator of the perfect tart flavour and also of proanthocyanidins (PACs). The berries develop this protective polyphenol in response to cooling temperatures, and their PAC levels increase as the season continues. "It means I can sleep longer," laughs Schneider who monitors temperatures 24-7 this time of year via a smartphone app. He says as the weather gets cooler and cooler, the berries get heartier and heartier, which means less middle-of-the-night alerts to warm them up by sprinkling their bogs with warm water. 

Schneider's family farm, located northeast of Montreal, is one of more than 100 Canadian cranberry growers for Ocean Spray. The co-operative, not company, was founded85 years ago by three American growers who pooled resources to get the word out about the bog berry. Nearly a century later, you can find cranberry mixed with just about every type of juice, Cranberry-Mango being the latest Ocean Spray blend. And to demonstrate just how versatile the cranberries can be, Ocean Spray hosted a pre-Thanksgiving lunch for media at Toronto's L'Unitarestaurant (lunita.ca). We sampled everything from Cranberry Pork Belly Spiedini to Cranberry & Mascarpone Cannoli and, yes, fresh Cranberry Sauce made an appearance for the turkey main course. 

"Bog boots" counted for some of the conversation as we oohed and aahed through the courses. Schneider has a weather-dependent collection of varying insulation degrees,and Kellyanne Dignan, senior manager of communications for Ocean Spray, keeps pairs all over. It's easier than having to wash and pack them up after site visits – after all, there are 700-plus farms in North America and Chile that currently make up the co-op. Colour is all the talk this time of year, says Dignan, and noted that the happy accident from the rich pigment Ocean Spray demands is the PACs. Happy accident indeed as the PACs in cranberries may help prevent bacterial infections, especially urinary tract infections, and are being studied for cardiovascular health and cancer treatment. Pass the cranberry sauce! 

Try the following recipes courtesy of Ocean Spray (www.oceanspray.ca).

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