What is Black Aronia?
Aronia is America’s native super fruit. It has the highest antioxidant level of any known fruit. The plant is native to northeastern North America, and aside from health magazine and blog followers, is most well known in Eastern Europe. In the last six years many aronia orchards have been planted in the Mid-Atlantic area, as well as in the Midwest, and they are producing ever more fruit each year. There are also red and purple fruited aronia, but they are mostly used as landscape plants.
The growth habit of aronia is an upright shrub that will grow, if unchecked, to about 10 feet, spreading out with new shoots from the ground near the base. The white flower clusters in spring yield dark, blueberry sized fruit, laden with anthocyanins in mid August. Due in part to the high level of flavinoids, eating the fresh fruit is an acquired taste. With shades of wild cherry, there is a unique fruity sweetness cloaked in astringency and a high acid level that lends itself very favorably to jellies, syrups, savory condiments like steak sauce, and of course, full bodied dark red wines.
Notice the calyx (star) at the base of the fruit. Looks like an apple? Aronia like apple is in the Rosaceae plant family, and the fruit of both is a pome (as is a rose hip). There are relatively few pests or diseases to aronia, and as such, fewer inputs are required for their cultivation. Plant some on your own garden. In addition to spring, summer, and culinary interest; the leaves can turn a bright red in the fall. The bold red color against the dark green of the still unturned leaves can be quite striking.