Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is a Midwest native. I missed attending an Aronia Berry Festival at Sawmill Hollow Organic Farms (www.sawmillhollow.com) near Missouri Valley, Iowa, this fall. This is the largest commercial aronia plantation on the continent. So I am sharing excerpts from Jan Riggenbach’s column in the Omaha World Herald with you.
The Black Chokeberry is a shrub for all seasons, it boasts white flowers in the spring, wine-red foliage in the fall, and long lasting purple-black berries that remain on the plant most of the winter. It is adaptable and easy to grow, thrives in full sun or partial shade, in wet or dry soils, and is usually disease resistant. Most of us did not know you could eat the berries and grew them for bird food for the winter months.
There is a big demand for aronia berries because of their high antioxidant content that exceeds wonder crops like blueberries and elderberries. It is best to freeze the berries first to break down the tannins that, before freezing, cause a dry puckering taste. Jan says they are great in muffins and other baked goods as well as wine, jelly, tea, ice cream and yogurt, and smoothies. A mature aronia shrub can produce 30 pounds of berries and may be harvested any time from September to November. There is no need be concerned about harvesting before frost because frost doesn’t harm the berries. A variety called “VIKING” can grow about 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide. It is recommended for its large, plentiful berries. There is a compact “Autumn Magic” or dwarf “Iroquois Beauty.” All are self-pollinating, producing berries even if there is room for only a single plant.