An ancient native fruit crop after being ignored for years is now grown in the United States for its healthful qualities. It is also suitable for organic fruit production. Often referred to as chokeberry, black chokeberry is a plant native to the US that has been widely cultivated for fruit production in Eastern Europe. However, it is now being recognized as an important health food in the United States. The aronia berry industry is a young, developing market in the United States. The Aronia berry is about the size and color of a blueberry and comes in bunches of about 8 to 15. For this reason, they are easy to pick. A mature Viking or Nero chokeberry plant (about 5 to 6 years old) can produce over 20 lbs. They begin to bear fruit (averaging 2 to 4 pounds of fruit per plant) within two growing seasons after planting.
A planting distance of 2.5 to 3 feet between aronia plants is suggested. This allows plants to suck in and fill the space to form a hedge. It is recommended that older canes be thinned after the plants are 3-5 years old. Cutting plants back to about 3 feet tall will invigorate the plant. If the bushes are not thinned out, they will grow too dense, resulting in poor light exposure, leading to reduced productivity. The fruit usually ripens in late August or mid-September and is ready for harvest. At harvest, the fruit is usually between 19 and 21 degrees Brix. brix is the Percentage of soluble solidsby weight. High percentage of soluble solids, high Brix value is desirable. Bird damage is generally not a major problem in commercial plantations, as the fruit is too bitter until ripe and even tastes astringent. The plant is well adapted to its native home in North America zones 3 to 7 and is suitable for commercial growth as an organic fruit crop. The commercial use of aronia is mainly to make juice. Steaming or squeezing the juice with an apple cider press are effective methods. Freezing the berries first, before steaming or pressing them in an apple cider press releases more juice.
Chokeberry berries are very rich in very important phenolic acids, procyanidins and anthocyanins. Compared to other super healthy foods, aronia berries stand out as the best option.
Aronia fruits have high concentrations of flavonoids causing great interest in them because they are powerful antioxidants. Aronia has a higher oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) than other household foods based on reported food results for antioxidant activity in 2010.
The total ORAC score for raw Aronia fruit was greater than 16,000 µmol TE/100 g. TE/100g is (Trolox micromole equivalents per 100 grams of fruit. These are the standard units for this ORAC test). Blueberries have an ORAC score of just over 4,600 µmol TE/100 g. Raw Acai is reported to have a total ORAC value of only 5,500 µmol TE/100 g, which is much lower than the ORAC score of raw chokeberry. Acai, a fruit imported from South America, is a berry that has been making headlines. Acai is one of the leading antioxidant fruits on the market, but its ORAC is low compared to Aronia. Research shows that Aronia has a higher ORAC than any other berry grown and eaten domestically in the US.
- Its antimicrobial properties promote a healthy urinary tract
- It has anti-inflammatory properties to help prevent and relieve arthritic symptoms.
- Fights bacteria and viruses, such as colds and flu.
- Strengthens memory
- aids digestion
- Helps the body produce good cholesterol and lower “bad” cholesterol
- Provides the body with essential oils
- Possible aid in diabetes control.
- It has properties to fight colon cancer.
- Chokeberries are high in fiber and contain pigments (anthocyanins) that may help prevent cancer.
- It has the highest antioxidant capacity of any household food reported to date.
- Increases neurological, motor and cognitive functions.
- It can help prevent neurological disorders such as dementia.
- Improves night vision acuity and prevents and even reverses macular degeneration
- Helps fight heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, promotes cardiovascular health
- Rich in vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E and folic acid.
- It can slow the effects of aging.