Given the popularity of the organic food and whole food movements, and our culture’s dedication to warding off the aging process, the renewed interest in newly discovered berries is perfectly timed.
Move over, Acai berries and Mangosteen. There’s a less expensive, easier-to-eat antioxidant in town, and it’s a super food that Native Americans have known about for generations:
The Aronia Berry (Aronia Melanocarpa – Black Chokeberry)
Also called chokeberries thanks to their super-tart taste, the dark-purple clusters grow wild in North America and have recently been cultivated by farmers in the Midwest. The distinctive berries grow on bushes, with several round fruit clumped together on rosy-red stems.
It’s very similar in taste to a wine grape. What you taste in that tartness is actually very good for you, a type of an antioxidant and type of a compound that can be found in wine and can also be found in tea.
Aronia berries contains a natural blend of polyphenolic antioxidants that combat the cell-damaging free radicals created in our bodies by stress, environmental pollution, medical x-rays, and other aspects of daily living (even exercise!). Among those antioxidants are anthocyanins, which have been shown to help fight diseases caused by oxidative stress like certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, and liver function, according to studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
According to the USDA, Aronia berries have twice as much antioxidant power as cranberries and four times as much as pomegranates, strawberries, goji berries, and blueberries. They’re difficult to compare to chia seeds, another popular antioxidant, because chia seeds aren’t fruits.
Unlike trendy acai berries, which are usually found mixed into other products or in powdered supplement form, aronia berries are available as whole fruit, you can find them online at Amazon.com (about $10 per pound) where they cost far less per serving than dried goji berries (about $18 per pound) and dried wild blueberries (about $48 per pound). Native Americans used them as part of their diet, as preservatives for their meat, and also for dying cloth. And it’s become popular in Europe, where they’re now prized for their health and wellness properties.
Aronia berries aren’t a dietary supplement, though, they’re a food. Like elderberries or black currants, aronia berries can be used to make wine, jam, syrups, and tea; you can stir them into fresh sauces or use them along with blueberries in your breakfast muffins.
Here’s a quick breakdown some other useful information on this powerful berry:
Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: A native species in the Southern Appalachians, often found growing with the wild blueberries in high elevation balds. Good for any garden soil. Also does well in wetland situations or poorly drained soil.
Growth habits: Very attractive deciduous shrubs from 4 to 7 feet tall. Glossy dark green summer foliage followed by bright red fall color. Beautiful clusters of white flowers in the spring followed by large blue-black fruit clusters in late summer to early fall.
Landscape uses: Orchard production of the very nutritious berries. Useful in home landscapes for hedging and foundation plantings. Great wetland margin plant. Nectar/pollen source beneficial for insects and bees.
Edible/Medicinal properties: The blue-black berries are borne in abundance on plants from an early age. The berries are very popular in Europe for healthy juice production and due to their high pectin content also make very tasty and nutritious jams. The berries are extremely rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins.
If you love to cook, bake and explore new foods, look for recipes using Aronia Berries coming soon.