Black chokeberry is another common name for aronia. Its scientific name is Aronia melanocarpa. It is related to roses, apples, and mountain ash trees. Its fruit looks similar to blueberries but they are not related.
The dark pigmented berries of aronia are about the size of a pea or a blueberry. They are extremely high in antioxidants--higher than blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, grapes, and pomegranates. Antioxidants have many health benefits.
Aronia berries have a distinctive, pleasant flavor that will make your mouth pucker. This dry mouth sensation is caused by chemicals known as tannins-the makings of dry wines. The berries can be used for making wines and juices, in baked goods or just eaten fresh. Freezing reduces the astringency of aronia berries so they pucker your mouth less if frozen prior to eating.
Please note that this is chokeberry; not the chokecherry that you might have picked wild, as a child. The chokeberry does not have a single large seed or pit like the chokecherry or other stone fruits such as cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines. These fruit plants are susceptible to many insects and diseases.
In contract, chokeberry has no serious insect or disease pests. Birds do not eat the ripening fruit, but if you allow the berries to stay on the branch through the winter, they will enjoy them in late winter or early spring!
Although native to the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada, the aronia berry is far more popular in Eastern Europe where high quality, large fruited cultivars have been developed. In the last ten years, these improved cultivars have been "reintroduced" to the United States.
The aronia berry grows on a showy, fast-growing shrub, reaching 6 to 8 feet tall. It is covered with beautiful, white flowers in late spring amongst shiny, dark green leaves. Flame-colored leaves in the fall are accented by the dark purple berries. They are easy to grow and make an attractive windbreak or landscape plant used as an accent, in mass plantings, or as a hedge.
The demand for aronia berries is currently greater than the supply. You might want to consider planting an aronia berry plantation, or plant just a few as a windbreak or hedge or just one bush. Many nurseries and garden centers in Iowa sell aronia plants.
To find out more about aronia, plan to attend the Aronia Festival on Saturday and Sunday, September 19 & 20 at Sawmill Hollow Organic Farm, 2159 Kennedy Avenue, north of Missouri Valley, Iowa. To get there from Council Bluffs or Sioux City, take I 29 to Exit 82 (Modale exit) then follow signs.
The Aronia Festival will include tours and educational talks about aronia and their ornamental and wildlife uses. Speakers at the Aronia Festival will include Dr. Eldon Everhart, ISU aronia expert, and Vaughn Pittz, owner of the farm.
Sawmill Hollow Organic Farm is the largest and oldest US aronia plantation. At the Aronia Festival you can enjoy the free entertainment while you sample aronia products including juice, jelly, and wine. Aronia plants and aronia products will also be for sale at the Aronia Festival.
To schedule a consultation to learn more about the opportunities for commercial aronia plantations, contact Dr. Eldon Everhart at firstname.lastname@example.org
Information compiled from the following: The Iowa Horticulturist magazine Mar 2009; "Black Chokeberry" by Eldon Everhart; "Aronia Berries are Versatile" by Charlie Caldwell