Black Chokeberry, a Native Super Food

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Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Fruits
Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Fruits
(Photo by: Puchatech K/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite its funny name, black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is a super healthy food that has been cultivated and consumed for thousands of years. It’s native to eastern North America, but due to its various uses, chokeberry bushes were later introduced to Europe as well. They’re easily recognized in the wild from their glossy dark green leaves, which turn red in the fall.

These small, black berries are a quite important part of Native American cultures. They’re a great wild food source and they have other uses as well. They’re used to preserve meat and make traditional medicines, among other things.

Edibility and culinary use

Black chokeberry has a really good but astringent flavor. The astringency is more pronounced when the berries are eaten raw. For this reason, they taste best when cooked. That way, their natural sour and sweet flavor will come out nicely. Some extra added sweetness from sugar and honey will make them taste exceptional.

Black chokeberries are often made into syrup, juice, and jam. They also taste amazing when added to cakes, muffins, pies, and tarts. They can also be dried to make chokeberry raisins, which has a tart yet sweet flavor. Dried chokeberries can be eaten on their own as a healthy snack or used as a topping for desserts, such as cakes and ice cream.  

Health benefits

Even though black chokeberry isn’t as popular as other berries as a wild edible, these underrated berries have fantastic health benefits. They are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and E as well as minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and iron. They’re also low in fat, sodium, and calories. In fact, 100g of fresh chokeberries only contains about 50 calories, making them an exceptionally healthy diet food.

Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Flowers
Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Flowers
(Photo by: Kent McFarland/Flickr)

Moreover, these berries have the highest antioxidant content of any fruit. They contain about 3 times as much antioxidants as blueberries. That’s why researchers believe that black chokeberries can be great for preventing and fighting off cancer. They also can eradicate free radicals in our bodies, making us healthier and boosting our immune system at the same time.

That’s not all these berries can do. Native Americans used to consume them to fight off the common cold and flu, but recent studies state that these berries are capable of curing many more ailments. Due to their dietary fiber content, these berries can assist your digestive system, promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, and even regulate your blood sugar level as well as prevent diabetes. These berries also contain compounds that can improve your cardiovascular health, reduce high blood pressure, and regulate cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Lastly, black chokeberries can reduce oxidative stress in the eyes and thus, lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Cultivation

Black chokeberry isn’t only great as a food source. Chokeberry bushes can also be an amazing addition to any garden. Its dark green, glossy leaves will turn into lovely shades of orange and red in the fall instead of falling off. As a result, you’ll have vibrant foliage in your garden all year long. Moreover, this plant’s tiny white flowers are amazing at attracting pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. The small, black berries will start to appear in early fall. Make sure to harvest them immediately once they’re ripe before the birds finish them all off.

Since black chokeberry is a native plant in North America, you shouldn’t have any problem finding them in local plant nurseries. You can either buy young plants to transplant to your garden or bare roots to cultivate later. They’re not very hard to grow and maintain either. Just keep the soil around them moist and make sure they get enough sunlight.

Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Bush
Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Bush
(Photo by: Cranbrook Science/Flickr)

If you buy young shrubs, then it’s not difficult for you to grow them in your garden. Simply pick a sunny location in your garden and carefully transplant the plants once they’re sturdy enough. Just make sure to give around 6” to 12” between each plant to avoid overcrowding.

If you buy bare roots, soak the roots in a bucket of water. Keep each root separated and don’t expose them to the sun. Then, you can start planting them in early fall. Dig a hole 6” wider than the root and with the same depth as the root. Carefully fill the hole halfway with soil then water the plants. After that, continue filling the hole with soil while readjusting the soil. Make sure that the crown or the graft of the plants is only slightly above the soil.

Cautions

Chokeberry is safe when consumed moderately. But, these berries contain oxalic acid. If you consume too much oxalic acid, it may cause oxalate-type kidney stones to form. If you have had kidney stones or other kidney problems before, it’s best to limit your chokeberry consumption.

Conclusion

It’s undeniable that black chokeberries are an amazing source of nutrients. Their late fruiting period also ensures you still have a healthy and reliable food source when other plants have already started to wilt.

If you’re lucky enough to have some chokeberry bushes growing nearby, make great use of them and don’t forget to harvest the berries before the birds finish them off. But if you’re not so lucky, don’t worry. You can still grow them in your own garden. Plus, they’re a lovely and colorful addition to your landscape.


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Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



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