The Benefits of Aronia Juice
In recent years, the aronia berry has been receiving a lot of attention from scientists because of its extraordinarily high levels of antioxidants. The dark blue or purple berry of the aronia bush contains one of the highest levels of antioxidants ever found in a plant.
Antioxidants protect the body against free radicals, atoms that have lost an electron (a process called oxidation). Free radicals can cause damage to the body's cells and are associated with increased risk of several types of cancer and degenerative diseases, including cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, Alzheimer's disease, and more. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and help promote good health and a youthful physical appearance and condition.
Preliminary results of studies on the aronia berry have found possible protection against colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, peptic ulcers, eye inflammation, and liver failure, among others.
The Basics of Aronia Juice
The aronia berry is the fruit of the Black Chokeberry (Aronia malanocarpa), a shrub native to the Eastern United States and Canada.
The taste is commonly described as "tart" but might more accurately be described as "puckery enough to make a lemon taste sweet."
For many people, the closest familiar equivalent might be pure, unsweetened cranberry or pomegranate juice. (Cranberry and pomegranate, by the way, are two more berries with very high antioxidant levels, though not as high as the aronia berry's.)
Another species of aronia, Aronia arbutifolia, or Red Chokeberry, is somewhat sweeter, but has lower antioxidant levels.
Many commercial aronia juice preparations use other fruit juices as sweeteners. You can experiment to see which combination works best for you.
Make Your Own Aronia Juice
In addition to buying commercial preparations of aronia juice, you can also make your own.
Black chokeberries are attractive and highly adaptable shrubs that grow well in most parts of the United States. Disease resistant and hardy to zone 3, it tolerates wet or dry soils and even salty soils. It produces the most fruit in full sun, but can also be grown easily in part shade. In addition to the berries, the Black Chokeberry also has attractive foliage with beautiful autumn color and lots of beautiful whitish pink flowers in spring. (See the photo above.) It grows to be about 3-6 feet tall but suckers, so it can eventually form a large colony if uncontrolled.
Chokeberry can be propagated from seed, from cuttings, or by dividing large colonies into smaller ones.
Bird lovers will be interested to know that chokeberries are an important winter food source for birds. Fortunately, however, they are too astringent to be a favorite food of birds, so it is unlikely that you will have to drape nets over the bushes at fruiting time to prevent birds from eating all the berries before you get to them.
Berries should be harvested in August or September when their sugar level is highest. After harvesting, use a juicer to make aronia juice.
Aronia berries can also be used in pies, jams, syrups, wine, and more.
Note: chokeberries are sometimes confused with chokecherries (Prunus virginiana), which are similar in habits and appearance, and which have a cultivar called 'Melanocarpa'.