ARONIA BERRY: AMERICA’S ANSWER TO EXOTICS
Almost overnight, they’ve appeared in your supermarket’s refrigerator case beside other high-antioxidant concoctions: Asian goji berry juice, tropical acai berry juice, mangosteen juice. Now an American exotic, aronia berry, has swept onto the scene and is skyrocketing to prominence as a nutritional blockbuster. This violet-black jewel has three times the antioxidant power of the highly ranked blueberry, and five times that of the old standby, the cranberry.
Aronia melanocarpa, also known as black chokeberry, is a deciduous shrub native to the Great Lakes region and the northeastern United States. It has been planted extensively in Europe and Asia, as well as on several farms in western Iowa. The shrub’s pea-sized berries ripen to a juicy purple-black, but begin to shrivel soon after ripening.
This tiny food sensation also boasts a noble history of non-food uses. Native Americans used aronia berries for medicinal purposes (a tea was steeped to treat a cold) and to preserve food (most notably to create pemmican, a dried meat). The vivid color of the berries made them the perfect ingredient for fabric dyes. Today, aronia melanocarpa is considered an ideal candidate for an ornamental yet edible landscape element, now popular with homeowners.
So what accounts for this rising star’s popularity in today’s thriving superfood sector? In addition to antioxidants galore, the aronia berry boasts several other health benefits. Studies conducted in Eastern Europe, the United States and Japan since 1994 have documented that aronia berry plays an important role in:
the treatment of cardiovascular illnesses.
the treatment of diabetes.
defense against colon cancer.
protection of gastrointestinal health.
Aronia berries can be canned whole or have their juice extracted, and then are used much like blueberries or cranberries (in baked goods, jams, or yogurts, for example). In Poland, aronia berry ice cream is a top seller; in Russia, Denmark and Eastern Europe juice and wine are most often produced. Here in the United States, aronia berry juice is the most common offering, but new products are entering the market every day (extract powders, teas, and fruit chews are just a few).
Whether you can, bake, drink or chew them, these nutritional superstars make getting healthy deliciously simple.