Notes on Aronia (How does it taste?)

I'm sure many have partial shade, perhaps wet areas around their yard, they desparately wish they could plant the North American native Aronia in, but wonder about the reports on taste? 

Or perhaps you've never heard of the plant to begin with. A. melonacarpa, A. prunifolia, and A. arbutifolia are often considered ornamentals for their blazing, orange-red leaves shown off in fall. They can tolerate salt to the point many authorities recommend planting them as a privacy hedge by the road. In cold climates, where salt is spread for ice and snow, most plants in this area would be salted to death. It can abide a decent amount of shade, and doesn't mind moist soils, and blooms rather late in the season helping it slide its flowers by frosts even in low areas. All this is especially attractive when reading reports of a mature plant producing 20 lbs of dark blue, highly nutritious berries every year. 


I suspect they are right on that point. I have a couple in the food forest; and one, this year, although only two feet tall and two twigs wide, has made several healthy, dark blue fruit clusters. 

I think many are put off by the common name for these plants -"chokeberries. " Statements in shrub books that say 'The fruit is unattractive to birds, so stays on the bush for months" also cast a shadow of doubt. What's the point of tons of fruit in poorer sites if it's inedible?

I was quite excited to see the fruit from this "Viking" cultivar (Aronia prunifolia) because I could finally taste some fruit myself. 

I found the taste quite mild compared to what I expected. Really, it's almost bland, and rather dry, with white inner pulp, and a couple crunchy seeds. A pure sourness twinged in the background. 

I don't have the average palate though, because I don't eat any sucrose sugar, and am sparing with even unrefined sweeteners, so find pleasure in many food others find repulsive. To give a more trustworthy report, I took the copious harvest and handed them out to my sugar seeking siblings. 

Invariably their faces scrunched up. One said she had to force herself to swallow, another said it reminded him of pomegranate (including the seed) with a touch of blueberry. My mother had come across the dish of them when I wasn't around, ate one, and apparently spit hers out promptly. 

I really have no problems eating more of these for their health benefits. To quote: 

Aronia berries contain higher levels of antioxidants, polyphenols, and anthocyanins than elderberries, cranberries, blueberries, grapes, and most other fruit.

-see the rest of the article here.

I'm sure also that a little cooking and flavor work on these rather bland fruits could do something for them. They are so dry I can see them sucking any added flavor like a sponge. 

The next time you are at a nursery then, keep an eye out for one of these Aronia species. As they are self fertile, and quite willing to grow, it is likely most yards will have a spot that can grow out these happy shrubs to productive fruiting. I'll update when I have more than one handful in the coming years and can play around with flavor. I have a feeling it will be well worth the wait.

30 thoughts on “Notes on Aronia (How does it taste?)”

  1. I don’t see anything wrong with a fruit that is a little tart. You wouldn’t want to eat many blackcurrants straight from the bush, even when very ripe. Fruit for jamming or cordial is very welcome. Chokeberries seem to grow very readily from seed – I got some from ART, and they germinated very well (which isn’t always the case for me). I need to mulch the resulting plants, since their growth (in grass) is rather slow. They do survive and look healthy (and the leaf colour is lovely), so I still hope for some berries in a few years! It’s nice to read about their taste, which seems to correlate with what I was thinking.

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    1. My thoughts exactly! I am of course quite fine with eating them fresh, but wanted to give a fair review nevertheless.

      Interesting you’ve grown yours from seed. I have never heard of anyone doing this before, but good to know it is possible. I wonder now if they might seed themselves around a food forest on their own?

      Thanks again for your comment. I always find them of interest.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Seeds are a lot cheaper that plants. Especially when, like me, you have to add on a lot of postage. Sometimes, as I say you get nothing, but if I get even one plant I have saved £. Obviously if you want an improved variety you would probably need a plant.

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  2. In Europe, Aronia is mostly sold as juice which is blended with apple juice to make it appealing to a wider audience.

    At our place we mostly soak the berries in alcohol, add spices and offer it to guests in a year or so. But they are also fine dried and then used for tea.

    The berries can stand on the bush for quite a long time without harm unless you have an active bird population

    Skyeent, some blackcurrant cultivars are advertised as being suitable for fresh consumption and in my experience they actually are, having a higher sugar content but not the heavy black-curranty notes. Noiroma and Nimue are such cultivars, for example, especially the first one.

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    1. So pleased to hear from you after all this time! I wondered what had happened.

      I find it so interesting how many Europeans have figured every use possible for this North American native, while North Americans don’t even know what the heck it is! Fascinating details there on use though. I may have to try those out.

      I will have to collect some more cultivars myself to see if the flavors changes much. ‘Nero’ is the next easiest cultivar to get my hands on to compliment my ‘Viking.’

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      1. Hey! 🙂

        It’s all good… It’s just that I’m a couple of hours short every day.

        When growing in a “plant it, mulch it, wish it best of luck and go away” context, I would suggest that you don’t choose Nero, it’s too weak for such an approach. Viking is OK. Amit should be even better (supposedly up to 4 m = 12 ft tall) but I’ve only heard about it in theory so far.

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    1. I have never come across this no. I see from the literature its name is turning up it eats more than Aronia flowers, so will keep it that way if at all possible. Thanks for the tip.

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    1. Already found that out myself to some degree, as by ‘get’ one I really meant ‘have success’ with one. Although I must say, the one Nero continues to come back. Mice keep eating its bark, or something. It nevertheless has not fruited for the four years I’ve had it.

      Inteewsting about the grafting. Few sorbus are grown here in the States. I have seen one quite successful one in a place I might be allowed to experiment, and may try that out.

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  3. Aronias are one plant that, so far, I can’t get to grow in the desert. I love anything with brilliant fall foliage and I like the juice in small doses, so I keep trying. As I get more shade, maybe they will finally take. It might be that they need more watering and pampering than I give them, and maybe deep mulching would help. But in general, plants that appreciate extra moisture don’t do well for me.

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    1. I think with the climate engineering you are doing it may work in a couple of years. Spaces that come to mind might be a shaded spot near a leaky rain gutter? I would love to see what you would do with the fruit.

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    2. Wooddogs3,
      while I certainly can’t say our current environment is desert-like (it’s just regular continental climate of the Pannonian plain) we do get a period of drought and high heat in the summer – a month or two. During this time, aronia is much less sensitive than the ribes family. I would say deep mulching would go a long way. Again, this has not been tested in a situation as harsh as yours but it’s also not an undertaking that would require a lot of input.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. |I have a chokeberry bush that I bought years ago from a cheap store that sometimes sells unusual plants – it was before even the good nurseries were selling them. It has grown into a handsome bush with lots of berries that I generally leave for the birds who seem to like them. When I ate them they were very tart, but following moogiesupercrow above I may make some alcohol liquers from them to give to friends / family as I don’t drink! And I have just remembered I have seen products on sale in Wales from this company http://www.aerona.wales/about_us.html.

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  5. I don’t have a damp spot in my garden but at least I now know what chokeberries actually are!

    If you like them reasonably well as they are, it looks you’ve got a good fruit there, Luke.

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    1. Well, that is for my palate. I should mention that mine are not in especially damp spots, but do get shade for at least a couple hours a day from the big catalpa tree. Somehow I get the feeling you’re not especially interested in getting yourself one of these, but if you are, your climate may well work for it.

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      1. I think my garden is too small for Aronia on top of all the other plants I’m building up to getting, such as another apple tree and autumn fruiting raspberries. Perhaps once more of the garden is establishing I may decide differently 😊.

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        1. If you can avoid them getting dry for a prolonged time, autumn raspberries are the best crop. Taste, fruiting period, low maintenance – can’t beat it. At out place (Z6) the first pickings from Autumn bliss are at the very end of may, it goes on until July when the plants take a 2-week vacation to switch to this year’s canes. And then from mid-July to October the harvest is on again. However, if moisture gets really low, you can expect a dramatic decrease, ie. instead of a glorious almost 5-month harvest season there might not be anything to pick at all.

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          1. That’s useful to know, thank you. My climate is pretty dry and I have sandy loam soil so they will need lots of watering by the sounds that of it.

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    1. About that drought sensitivity… I’m currently reviving about 200 rasps in 6 rows by giving them 100 liters (26 gallons) per row every 3 days. They are young plants. Due to too many things to do I’ve been mostly absent during May, missed the best mulching period in and was not prepared when the first heat wave came unusually early in June.

      After 2 weeks of regular watering we’re now having a small cup of berries per day… From, as mentioned, about 200 plants, so it’s still very close to zero. Do NOT let them dry out.

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  6. One more thing since this year’s aronia berries are just about ready to pick.

    You might have asked yourself…. Is it better to have your aronia in the (partial) shade to avoid the brutal summer heat (but suffer the effects of less light) or is it better to have it out in the open, exposed fully to the heat?

    From my observations it seems that the better choice is to go for full sunlight despite the heat. As things stand now, this (droughty) year’s crop is much better in the open than in the shade (both with very irregular watering). Berry size in the full sun is up to 2 x what it is in the shade. The number of berries does not vary much.

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    1. Well that is a gem of info! Have you ever reconsidered my suggestion you put this all down on a blog? Either that or I just need to rewrite the above post. Thanks for all your contributions to the pool of info here!

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  7. It’s just that it’s one thing to make a decision and quite another to stick to it in the face of all the other stuff that wants to get done… I do keep notes and often I’m surprised by some details even if they are not from a very distant past. One day… 🙂

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  8. I have two Nero and two Viking planted and mine are also just twigs. I didn’t realize Aronia was Chokeberry. If I had I would have went with Red Chokeberry because I read somewhere the red had better flavor and was better for jams.
    Mostly I only planted the Aronias because I read it could be turned into wine and jam.
    This guy says it is actually commercially grown in Poland and Russia and makes wine – http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/aronia.asp
    Here is somebody making an Apple-Aronia jam- https://bloomsandfood.com/tag/aronia-jam-recipe/
    I think you’re right, with a juicer it should be simple to slip a little of the juice into other juices, smoothies and stuff (ice cream?) for the health benefits.
    Hopefully my twigs will produce something next year!

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