You may have come across Aronia juice, a new superfood full of anti-oxidants, but are you aware we can grow them here in Scotland? Aronias have the common name ,Chokeberries, a name which doesn’t do it any favours!
It is a small deciduous shrub, several of which I have been growing in my field for the black fruits and lovely white flowers in spring.The fruits are about 7mm wide, similar to blueberries or even blackcurrants, and with no big seed inside like a damson.
There are several species and varieties. The Black Chokeberry is A. melanocarpa, A. arbutifolia is the Red Chokeberry, the hybrid of the two is the Purple Chokeberry, prunifolia. I haven’t tasted the red form, I wonder if there’s one in a botanic garden somewhere? They are reportedly sweeter.
They are all native to North Eastern United States. though some naturalization has occurred in Europe. They have a long history of use by native American Indians as a food, medicine and a dye plant.
They are very hardy, and equally heat tolerant in the US zones from 3 to 8.
The varieties “Brilliant’ , ‘Nero’, ‘Viking’ and ‘Autumn Magic’ can all be found in Garden Centres and have been selected for their fabulous autumn colouring. They are however all strikingly attractive wee shrubs for the shrubbery or woodland edge. Viking can grow to 6 feet, Nero is shorter, at 4 feet, but has larger fruit.
The leaves are reportedly used to make a tea, but it is the slightly earthy tasting, mildly sweet black berries in summer which are of most interest. My two year old little black chokeberry bushes produced a really nice crop last summer. Eaten straight off the bush I rather liked them ….so many apples and pears these days are too sweet for my taste.
The native black chokeberry is only 1.5m high and spreads by root suckers to about 3m wide, so it forms a nice compact little bush. The red form is a touch taller.
Aronias have been grown in Europe for a long time now, but only recently been considered a commercially viable crop. In Poland, many thousands of hectares have been planted for juicing. They use a selected form, Galicjanka, a tetraploid Nero form specially chosen for planting in rows and for harvesting by machine. It was selected at the Institute of Pomology in Albigowa, South East Poland for its productivity and evenness of ripening.Despite being of the rosaceae family, they are all reported to be relatively pest free and tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, though preferably not too wet, and definitely not too dry. Not a problem here! Watch out for powdery mildew though.
Varieties are all propagated by root suckers. We have a few to sell here at the nursery ; more varieties will be sourced and trialed in future years!