Edible Landscaping

Charlie Says… Grow Chokeberries for Better Health

Aronia or chokeberry is an easy to grow native fruit that's loaded with nutrition and makes an excellent juice when combined with other sweet fruits.

When I was growing up in Connecticut, there were some delicious looking black berries that my cousins and I tried to eat. If it looked good, it must taste good, right? Well, little did we know we were munching on chokeberry. The astringent flavor quickly taught us to not bother eating them, no matter how attractive they looked.

Chokeberries, or specifically Aronia melanocarpa, is a shrub native to the eastern United States and hasn't gotten much play as a landscape plant on this side of the Atlantic. However, in Eastern Europe it is a popular berry for making a healthful and delicious juice that has been used for centuries. Not only is the juice tasty when sweetened with other fruit juices such as blackberry and blueberry, it turns out to be great for your health, too.

Studies at the USDA showed that aronia juice is higher in antioxidants than the highly touted blueberry and pomegranate juices. It's also thought to have anti-microbial properties that aid urinary tract health, colon cancer-fighting properties, and possibly helps in the management of diabetes.

The shrub grows 3- to 5-feet tall and wide, has few pests and diseases, and is adapted to full and part sun locations. The white flowers in spring form black berries by summer. They start fruiting a few years after planting, and mature plants can produce up to 15 pounds of fruits. The shrub has beautiful fall foliage color as well.

So, before you buy the latest health drink craze, consider planting aronia as an edible landscape shrub in your yard to deliver a healthful punch.

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