Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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cranberry the most important of the berries borne by a group of low, scrubby, woody plants of the genus Vaccinium. These grow on moors and mountainsides, in bogs, and other places with poor and acid soil in most parts of the world, but are best known in N. Europe and N. America. All yield edible berries. The genus also includes the bilberry (see also blueberry).

The generic name Vaccinium is the old Latin name for the cranberry, derived from vacca (cow) and given because cows like the plant. This accounts also for the common name ‘cowberry’, which is lingon in Swedish, giving rise in the middle of the 20th century to the English term ‘lingonberry’. The origin of the name cranberry is obscure, apart from the dubious suggestion that cranes eat the berries. The common names of these berries are confusing and sometimes overlap with those of berries in other genera or families. See cranberry tree; huckleberry; whortleberry.