Berries – Week 1: Aronia (or Black Chokecherry/Chokeberry)

Aronia_BlackChokeberryAronia, also called black chokecherry, is an extremely hardy shrub that can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. It grows 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, depending on the variety. This vigorous shrub is self-fertile, generally insect- and disease-free, and produces an abundance of blue-black berries in summer. The berries make a strong-flavored wine, juice, or jam, and have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all the berry crops. ‘Viking’ and ‘Nero’ are two good selections.

As an added benefit, the glossy green leaves of this deciduous shrub turn fire engine red in fall. Instead of planting burning bush, why not grow aronia for fall color and edible berries? The plants sucker freely and can be used as a hedge plant along a wall or building.”  –Source:  Edible Landscaping

CBS News boasts:  “The berry has one of the highest antioxidant values ever recorded for any other fruits, including superfoods such as blueberries, acai berries and goji berries.”

Michigan Bulb offers this information:

Botanical Name: Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’
Form: Deciduous shrub
Sun Exposure: Partial Shade/Full Sun
Height/Habit: 3 – 5′
Spread: 5 – 6′
Spacing: 5 – 8′
Hardiness Zone: Zones 3 – 8
Foliage Type: Obovate, glossy mid-green leaves with excellent red orange and a hint of purple fall color.
Flower Form: Corymbs of white tinged with pink.
Flower Color: White tinged with pink
Flowering Date: Late spring to early summer.
Planting Requirements: Morning sun with shade in the afternoon is best for fruiting and fall leaf color.
Soil Requirements: Adaptable to a wide range of soils but moist, fertile, well-drained soil is best.
Growth Rate: Moderate.
Unique Characteristics: Hardy native plant to Eastern North America and Canada. This variety is a cultivated form of the native aronia. It has recently attracted scientific interest due to the deep purple-black berries and their properties. There are several health benefits of the aronia berries like other dark pigmented berries such as blueberries, black currant, salal and bilberries. Antioxidants, cardiovascular system support, anti-aging properties, digestive aids and help in maintaining blood sugar levels to name a few! The berries are not particular tasty fresh to humans but the juices can be made into a number of wonderful items such as juices, wines, syrups, sauces, marinades, chutney and pies. If you don’t care to harvest the fruit, the songbirds and other wildlife will gladly take care of that for you!
Pruning: Late winter when dormant or after flowering if fruit production is not an important factor for growing this plant.
Additional Information: Remove seeds and skin when used in foods – takes out the bitterness. Bounty of fruit by the third season of growth. Harvest fruit in early to mid fall.

“Also known as Chokeberry because of its ascetic flavor, this deep purple berry has been considered by many as the healthiest fruit in the world because of its abundance of anthocyanines, which aid in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Scientists and medical experts are even exploring the possibility of using the Aronia Berry to fight heart disease and cancer. American Indians were among the first to discover the medicinal value of this purple berry as they believed it to be an of aphrodisiac.

Aronia Melanocarpa Viking berries thrive in swamps and wet woods, so it best planted in moist and well-drained soil. Blooms start to appear in late spring and continue to blossom until early summer. Native to the eastern part of North America, the Aronia Berry is currently cultivated in many parts of the world. The plant yield clusters of tiny white flowers with pink glabrous sepals. Apart from its therapeutic properties, the fruit is also versatile in the kitchen. It can be used to make jams and fruit preserves, juices, food coloring, and tea to name a few. The Aronia Berry also makes a great decorative plant in any garden, not only because the fruits have a beautiful color, but also because the plant is resistant to harmful elements such as disease, pollution, and drought.”  –Source: Michigan Bulb

Aronia-blossomsJacqueline, at Deep Roots at Home says they are quite tart, but good in quickbreads and are self-fertile, so you only need 1 bush! 😀


52 Weeks in a Year – Berries!

Wikipedia says “the botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single flower and containing one ovary. Grapes and avocados are two common examples.”  But “in everyday English, ‘berry’ is a term for any small edible fruit.”  Wikipedia and Buzzle both go on to distinguish between “true” berries and “fruit” berries.

  • True Berries
    These conform with the botanical definition of berries. Hence, true berries.
  • Drupes (or stone fruits)
    These are technically not berries but are often confused to be. Difference being, these have a hard fruit wall and only one seed within.
  • Epigynous Fruits (or false berries)
    These are developed from an inferior ovary as opposed to true berries that develop from a superior ovary.
  • Compound Fruits
    These are berry-like fleshy fruits. However, these do not develop from a single ovary like true berries. Many ovaries from a single or multiple flowers combine to form one compound berry-like fruit.
  • Poisonous Berries
    Some of these conform with the botanical definition and some are just thought to be berries. Definition apart, these are poisonous berries that should not be consumed.

We will be looking at a new “berry” each week that can be grown on the homestead, especially for zone 7.  I will try to provide 2 for each letter of the alphabet, but realize ahead of time that may not be an attainable goal.  I’m not anticipating featuring any poisonous berries unless they have some other really good usefulness.