You walk into the Co-op on a late Summer/early Autumn day. The Produce section is bursting with vibrant, locally grown vegetables and fruits of many varieties. Packed into quart containers, something that looks like a blueberry catches your eye. Before you pop that little rich, purplish—black berry into your mouth, be aware that it’s not as sweet as it may appear! However, it is very worth getting to know.
The aronia berry—also known as a chokeberry—is a little berry that is off the charts in terms of antioxidant levels. It thrives across much of North America, making it highly regarded to Native Americans, who used them regularly. It faded in popularity but is now making a comeback due to its health benefits.
High in anthocyanins—the pigment that gives the berries their lush purple color—and proanthocyanidins (plant-based super-antioxidants), the aronia berry surpasses blueberries, cranberries and elderberries in antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body against damage caused by free radicals. In addition, studies have shown a variety of health-boosting effects, such as:
- Reduction of inflammation
- Improved circulation
- Improved function of the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems
- Protecting heart cells from cell membrane damage and DNA fragmentation
- Protecting the liver from chemical damage
Now, what about the taste? This typically isn’t a berry folks eat raw—after all, the alternative name “chokeberry” comes from the astringency of the fruit. They are extremely tart, therefore most often they are used as jam, syrup, juice, wine, gummies, tinctures and also in smoothies and baked goods.
The Co-op buys its fresh aronia berries from Carandale Farm in Oregon, Wisconsin. A pick-your-own berry farm throughout the summer, Carandale grows certified organic aronia berries for retail stores. Year-round, you will find aronia berries in our freezer section along with other frozen fruit. Fresh berries are perfect for substituting for blueberries in pancakes, or in the sweet bread recipe below. Also great for cooking down into a sauce or making jam—just be ready for the jam to be on the tart side if substituting for a sweeter berry. Frozen berries are perfect for—among other things—smoothies.
Here are a few recipes to get you started on experimenting with aronia berries. Do not stop here, there are lots more recipes out there! Enjoy!
A guide to a basic fruit smoothie I make often. In a blender, I place:
One half of a frozen banana (peeled and sliced before freezing)
Handful of frozen aronia berries
Handful of any other fresh or frozen fruit I have on hand: strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, watermelon, etc.
Generous scoop of frozen orange juice concentrate
Enough milk (any type of milk is fine to use—cow, soy, almond, cashew, etc.) to cover the above ingredients
Sometimes I add boosters like tera’swhey protein powder (Bourbon Vanilla is my favorite), or Kuli Kuli moringa powder (great source of iron)
Directions: Blend. These amounts will make roughly two servings or one if it’s replacing a meal.
Coconut milk (or other milk)
Aronia berries (fresh or frozen)
Bananas (frozen, cut into chunks)
Coconut water (as needed)
Directions: Prep time 5 minutes. Place all ingredients except coconut water in a blender and blend. Add coconut water and blend to reach desired consistency. Makes two servings.
Aronia Berry Bread
Adapted from www.motherearthnews.com.
2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 c. butter (at room temperature)
3/4 c. orange juice
1 c. sugar
1 c. aronia berries (roughly chopped, thawed if frozen)
Directions: Prep time=1 hour 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a medium bowl, combine egg, butter, orange juice and sugar. Stir until creamy. Fold in the aronia berries. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until moistened, being careful not to over mix. Bake in the prepared loaf pan for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes 1 loaf.