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Aronia berries (also called  Chokeberries)

Aronia berries (also called  Chokeberries)

Aronia Melanocarpa. The Aronia berry or black chokeberry is one of the common names for Aronia Melanocarpa. The nameAronia berry “chokeberry” is often confused with “chokecherry.” which is the common name for a different plant, prunus virginiana

Aronias are an edible fruit crop, high in high-antioxidants, although the fruit is too astringent to eat raw so it is usually baked, made into jams, jellies, syrup, tea, juice and wine. Aronia berries contain high levels of vitamins, antioxidants, and polyphenols that reduce the potential for cancer and heart disease.  Products made from chokeberries include jams, jellies, juice and Aronia wine. 

The berries can survive on the bush into winter , if birds and other wildlife don't eat them first.

The berries

Aronia melanocarpa, black chokeberry, the juicy pea sized berries (botanically a pome) are black in color and contain 1 to 8 seeds. Black chokeberry is grown commercially for juice production.Aonia cut open

 Aronia arbutifolia, red chokeberry, has attractive red fruit and is grown as an ornamental. Both species are edible but the highly tart  / acidic tannin content makes your mouth pucker when you eat the berries resulting in the name chokeberry.. The red variety is rarely grown commercially.

There is also a  Purple chokeberry, Aronia prunifolia (Photinia floribunda) which is rarely grown commercially

Where aronias are grownAronia bushes

There are two species of Aronia that belong to the rose family and are found in the eastern parts of North America from southern Canada to Georgia, west to Arkansas and north to Minnesota. They are slow growing, long lived suckering deciduous shrubs about 6 feet tall and wide with the general appearance of a lilac bush. They are also grown in Russia and Poland, where by 1985 over 40,000 acres of black chokeberry was grown in Russia. Poland had 10,000 acres under production in 2005. The fruit is mainly marketed as a juice or jams there. An aronia wine is made in Lithuania,

In the Spring, the bush has showy white flower clusters. In autumn, leaves change from green to vibrant tones of red, orange and purple. 

When

Aronia's bloom in mid-May to mid-June

The berries are harvested from late August to mid-September, but as noted above, they may survive on the bushes into winter.

Cooking and preserving

Aronia berries can be made into jams and jellies much like blueberries or cranberries.  They are very tart, so you may find you add more sugar.

You can find our fully illustrated, step by step directions here for making Aronia jelly and Aronia Jam

Basic recipes are shown below forl Aronia berry jam and jelly

Aronia jam

Yield about 6 to 8 half-pint jars

Ingredients

  • 6 cups aronia berries.
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (1 3/4 ounce) package dry pectin (no-sugar needed type is most reliable)
  • 6 cups sugar

Steps

  1. Wash the berries and then put them in a pot with enough water to cover them
  2. simmer 15 minutes until they become soft and mushy
  3. Add pectin and mix thoroughly
  4. Bring to a full hard boil; then add the sugar and stir continuously.
  5. Return to a full rolling boil and boil then for 1 minute
  6. Skim off any foam and ladle into canning jars.
  7. Wipe the rims and put on lids and rings
  8. Process in boiling water bath for five minutes
  9. Let cool away from drafts, undisturbed until room temperature (4 - 6 hours)
  10. Check for proper sealing and store in a cool, dry, dark place

 

Aronia jelly

Yield about 6 to 8 half-pint jars

Ingredients

  • About 4 lbs of aronia berries to produce 3  and 1/2 cups chokecherry juice made from the berries in steps 1-3 below
    if you don't have enough berries to make 3.5 cups of juice, you can supplement it with canned commercial apple juice, blueberry juice, cranberry juice, etc.
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (1 3/4 ounce) package dry pectin  (no-sugar needed type is most reliable)
  • 6 cups sugar

Steps

  1. Wash the berries and then put them in a pot with enough water to cover them
  2. simmer 15 minutes until they become soft and mushy
  3. Strain the juice. in a strainer or screen
  4. return to a clean pot
  5. Add pectin and mix thoroughly
  6. Bring to a full hard boil; then add the sugar and stir continuously.
  7. Return to a full rolling boil and boil then for 1 minute
  8. Skim off any foam and ladle into canning jars.
  9. Wipe the rims and put on lids and rings
  10. Process in boiling water bath for five minutes
  11. Let cool away from drafts, undisturbed until room temperature (4 - 6 hours)
  12. Check for proper sealing and store in a cool, dry, dark place

 

 

Varieties of Black Chokeberries

Common Aronia / Black chokeberry varieties are:

  • ‘Autumn Magic' - compact bush with large abundant fruit clusters
  • var. elata - large abundant fruit clusters, reduced suckering
  • Iroquois Beauty™ - compact bush
  • ‘Viking' - large abundant fruit clusters

Aronia Berry (Chokeberry) Production in Iowa

A two day event about sustainable organic commercial production and home garden culture of black chokeberry (Aronia melancarpa) was held in August 2008. For more information about future events, commercial production and marketing of aronia berries, visit Everhart Horticulture Consulting.  Dr. Eldon Everhart, formerly with Iowa State University, is co-owner of Everhart Horticulture Consulting.

 

But chokeberries are NOT chokecherries...

Chokecherry - The Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) is similar in its habitat preferences to the saskatoon. The white flowers, appearing in late May to early June, form long bottle-brush like clusters. The fruits ripen in August, and can be yellow, orange, red or dark purple in color. The fruit is astringent, but makes good jellies, jams and sauces. Other parts of the plant were used by native peoples for medicinal purposes. The roots were chewed and placed on wounds to prevent bleeding, and the bark was boiled with other ingredients to treat diarrhea and fever. Chokebcherries can be propagated from seed, cuttings, suckers and crown division.


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