With the decline of the human fascination over agrochemistry and synthetic improvement of nature, the world s turning back to natural food and natural medecine. Chokeberry fruit seem to be a landmark on this road back due to their unique capacity for combining the qualities of both healthy food and a therapeutic agent which can be prescibed for many common diseases of our age.
The native land of chokeberry is eastern North America, where in the wild it easily adapts to different conditions. It grows up to 2.5 m tall and 1.5-2 m in diameter. The flowers are white and produced in corymbs 5-6 cm of ca. 20-25 together. The extended blooming period starts in late May. The fruit set quickly, which almost eliminates the effect of late freeze and the percentage of fruit set is around 80-90. The period of fruit formation in various years is 80-90 days.
The aronia's fruit is black, globoid or oval, with light waxy bloom, 8-12 mm in diameter and 1-1.5 g in weight. The shrubs grown through vegetative propagation (and this is the only method I recommend to start a commercial plantation) will bear fruit in the third and sometimes even second year. The productive period is sometimes more than 20 years. The annual fruit yield is 12-17 tonnes per hectare, mean 15 ton/ha.
Chokeberry growing gives good economic results owing to the regular annual abundant fruiting. Aronia fruit can be used fresh or in preserves.
Due to the presence of anthocyanin pigments, chokeberry preserves have a beautiful and clear colour. The natural juice, even at 100 times dilution, is not decolourized and shows a pink colour.
However, the biggest value of chokeberry fruit is not the beautiful colour or the delicious taste of the preserves, but is unique content of vitamins for which chokeberry is recognized as a medicinal plant. The content of Vitamin P is between 1200-5000 mg%, mean 2500-3500 mg% (in most known fruit the content of Vitamin P does not exceed a few dozen mg%).
Black chokeberry fruit and natural juice can be recommended for wide use in the treatment of hypertension, arteriosclerosis, gastritis, haemorrhoid and capillary conditions. The recent studies show that natural Vitamin P in chokeberry fruit can be very helpful as a preventive and healing agent against the negative effect of radiation on a human body. Besides the already mentioned Vitamin P, aronia fruit contain Vitamins: C, PP, B2, B6, E and carotene (pro-Vitamin A). Fresh fruit contains also microelements, such as: radium, molybdenum, boron and iodine.
The comparison with other fruits rich in Vitamin P, such as lemons or mandarins, works clearly to the advantage of black chokeberry. Thus, in the treatment of hypertension the patient is put on a 4-day Vitamin P cure during which he/she is given 1 kg of fresh chokeberry fruit in a daily dose of 25 dkg. If you wanted to replace the chokeberry fruit with lemons or mandarins, you would have to eat 25 kg of lemons or 25 kg of mandarins.
The presence of tannin gives black chokeberries their astringent flavour, which makes them less favourite to eat as fresh fruit. However, with the addition of sugar they can be used to produce delicious preserves, jelly, jam, marmalade, etc. Particularly valuable are the preserves, in which the P-active compounds can be conserved almost intact. Chokeberry can be a very valuable addition to meat or poultry.
Chokeberry adapts easily to different environment conditions. Therefore, it can be grown all over the country, including piedmont regions (where it is most successfully grown on north or north-west slopes). When choosing the position, you have to remember that chokeberry is a photophilous plant which needs good lighting to produce regular annual crops.
The annual demand for water is 500-600 mm of rain, but chokeberry is quite tolerant to both to poor moisture as well to excessive dampness. Owing to its root system structure, chokeberry is successfully grown in the soils with low- and high-level ground waters. Long periods of draught can affect the yield and the quality of fruit (which may then turn bitter), especially in the summer, at the time of the intensive growth of the fruit.
Generally, it is not recommended to grow chokeberry together with other fruit trees or shrubs. High yield is obtained only on homogeneous plantations of the area of minimum 1 ha, where machines can be used in the cultivation process.
Aronia is most successful in rich and airy soils with high water capacity. However, with adequate fertilizing and care high yields have been also found on lower class soils (class 5 or even 6). Stony and gravel soil, as well as marshy or saline soils, are of little use. Chokeberry grows well if the lower layers of the soil consist of sandy clays with good aeration and sufficient water retention capacity. It is less successful if the lower layers of the soil are heavy clays, where excessive water retention occurs, which in turn has a negative effect on the development of the root system.
A well prepared soil before starting the plantation is fundamental and will have an impact on the beginning of fruiting.
In the first place, the area must be cleared from weeds, which will make the cultivation of the seedlings easier in the first years because chokeberry is particularly sensitive to weeding. At the age of 4-5 years, aronia is strong enough to choke weeds out.
One year before planting the seedlings, you must check the soil
acidity and, if needed, bring the acidity down to Ph 6-7 through
lime treatment. In the vegetation season preceding the planting it
is recommended to apply a soil cover with papilionaceous plants
for early plough-up. The fundamental treatment is a deep plough
which should be preceded by phosphoric fertilization in order to
introduce the not easily shiftable phosphorus into the deeper
layers of the soil. For poor soil organic manuring is recommended
before planting chokeberry.
The distribution of the shrubs on the plantation must allow for machine work. Therefore on large plantations the recommended interval between rows is 4 m. The spacing of seedlings in a row can be ca. 1.5 m. Large plantations should allow for machine harvesting in the future and therefore the seedling spacing in a row should be 0.6 - 0.8 m. It must be remembered that the plantations with densely planted shrubs for machine harvesting will give double the yield in the first years of fruiting, which will quickly compensate for the higher cost of starting the plantation.
The aronia's seedlings for permanent planting should be homogenous,
preferably two-year or well-developed one-year plants. After they
have been removed from the nursery (which is usually done in
October), the material should be heeled in, preferably close to
the planting site. You should avoid overdrying and freezing of
roots, which has a serious impact on the percentage of successful
establishment of the seedlings. Healthy, strong and properly
secured seedlings guarantee one hundred per cent establishment.
It is analogical to that used in most fruit shrubs and trees.
After the rows and planting points have been marked out, holes are
dug in - the poorer the soil, the deeper the hole. With poor soils
it is recommended to prepare the holes by adding manure, hotbed
soil, deacidified peat or compost dressing. You must make sure
that the roots are well spread and have no immediate contact with
the manure. The seedling should be planted 3-5 cm deeper than it
grew in the nursery, which will enhance shrub spreading. After the
seedling is planted, a little hollow should be left around it to
help retain water near the roots. With large plantations planting
machines should be used to significantly speed up the pace of
The main method of soil maintenance in young plantings for the
first two years is black fallow. For the first two years the
inter-rows can be used to grow vegetables and papilionaceous
plants (no cereals are allowed in inter-rows). Starting from the
third year, inter-row sodding is recommended with herbicide fallow
in the rows. In ecological plantations herbicides are not used and
the weeds in the rows must be combated mechanically.
Fertilization should be preceded by the lab tests of the soil. A good sign of the sufficient amounts of nutrients is the dark colour of the large leaves, their density on the shoots and a significant growth of the shrub.
Small and pale leaves indicate inadequate soil nutrients or an
excessive density of the shrubs, root freezing or draught.
Chokeberry can be fertilized using natural (organic) or mineral
fertilizers. Natural fertilizers are dung or liquid manure. With
mineral fertilization you must remember that not easily shiftable
fertilizers, such as phosphorus and potassium, should be applied
in the autumn or very early spring, while nitrogen fertilizers are
recommended twice or three times throughout the vegetation season,
starting in April and the last one in June. The estimate
quantities of a pure nutrient in the fertilizer are as follows: P
- 80 to 100 kg/ha, K - 100 to 150 kg/ha, N - 100 to 150 kg/ha.
It is one of the most important procedures, the purpose of which
is thinning and removal of weak or damaged shoots. Cutting is
recommended in the winter (February, March). In the first place,
cut such shoots which make harvesting difficult (creeping or
blocking the rows) and any damaged shoots. Then, remove parts of
any old shoots that choke the plant and the excessive number of
young sprouts, laving only the most healthy of them, which will
replace the old shoots in the future.
Chokeberry does not cause many problems because so far there have
been no pests or diseases in such a quantity to endanger our
plantations. Occasionally, aronia, its young shoots in
particular, is attacked by aphids or leaf-eating caterpillars. In
such cases, a one-time spray with one of the available
insecticides should be applied. In ecological plantations, where
no insecticides are used, the nature itself successfully combats
the pests - as proved throughout many years of observations - by
increasing the population of beneficial, pest-combating organisms.
In Poland, chokeberry ripens in late August, depending on the environmental and weather conditions. The ripening season may vary by two weeks. There is one-time harvest, which is started when all the fruit are completely formed and well-coloured. The containers must not be overfilled, otherwise the fruit may get crushed. Aronia fruit are persistent and can be stored unharmed in the containers even for a few days. It is a significant advantage because it makes it possible to make a one-time delivery of the fruit harvested from a large area to the processing plant. For mechanical harvesting with the use of a currant harvester, the right harvesting time is very important so that the fruit can be easily pulled off the pedicle. In our area chokeberry is harvested in late August or early September.
Chokeberries are used as an excellent flavouring to various fruit products such as wines and juices as well as jams, jellies and all sort of confectionery stuffing. The fruit are also processed into glazed chockeberries and a natural red colouring used in food industry.
The processing of fresh aronia is not difficult. Although the fruit soft, their shock-resistance allows to store them for a long time. Chokeberry products have got a characteristic slightly tannic taste, a beautiful ruby colour and they maintain their medical characteristics.
Chokeberry fruit contain may vitamines, with an outstanding proportion of vitamine P of which the plant is considered to be the richest source in the world. This unusual content of vitamin P, so uncommom with other fruit, gives good grounds for pronouncing chokeberry a medical plant. The fruit, juice and products made of chokeberry may be recommended in the treatment of hypertension, arteriosclerosis, hemmorrhoids, gastritis and also radiation sickness.
For more details apply to PPH "EGGERT" My firm deals with the production and marketing of the highest quality plant material as well as the sales of fresh and frozen aronia fruit along with chokeberrrry products.
The growing interest in chokeberry owes to the unique properties of its fruit, which are excellent raw material for processing and are classified as medicinal plants for their chemical composition.
The chemical composition of black chokeberry fruit may slightly vary depending on the region and the weather conditions during the vegetation period. Fresh, ripe chokeberry fruit contain 74-83% of water and 26-17% of dry mass respectively. Chokeberry fruit contain ca. 18% soluble substances, such as sugars, acids, tannins, pectins, pigments and mineral salts. The biggest share among the soluble substances are sugars, whose total content in the fresh fruit mass is 6.2-10.8%, where 4.3-5.9% are monosaccharide, fructose and glucose, while the rest is saccharose.
The content of organic acids in black chokeberry fruit is relatively insignificant - expressed in malic acid it is 0.7-1.3%. Thus, the sugar/acid ratio is quite high and it is ca. 8.
The presence of tannins contributes to the flavour of chokeberry fruit, the content of which in ripe fruit is ca. 0.35%. Tannins give the fruit their characteristic flavour, so much valued in food processing industry, winemaking in particular.
Black Aronia fruit show high contents of pectin substances (between 0.63 and 0.75%) and therefore can be used for jelly products and marmalades.
The content of ashes is higher than in other berries, such as currants, raspberries or gooseberries, i.e. 1.55 g of ash substances per 100 g of fruit. Ash substances contain significant amounts of calcium (ca. 7.8%) and very valuable microelements, such molybdenum (0.32-1.88 mg%), manganese (3.66-9.64 mg%), copper (0.81-2.97 mg%) and boron (0.15-0.71 mg%).
Due to its valuable content of vitamins, chokeberry is qualified as a medicinal plant, particularly useful in the treatment of civilization-related diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, gastritis and - as demonstrated in the recent studies - chokeberry fruit help neutralize the detrimental effect of radioactive radiation on a human body.
Aronia fruit also contain vitamins: P, C, PP, B2, B9, E and carotene (pro-Vitamin A). Among those, the content of Vitamin P is incomparably high compared to other fruits - it varies between 1200 and 3977 mg% in fresh fruit, 2500-3500 mg% on the average. In chokeberry fruit Vitamin P appears in the bioflavonoid group of: colourless catechin 600-1500 mg%, red anthocyanins 600-1300 mg% and insignificant amounts of yellow flavonoids.
Owing to such a high content of P-active compounds, chokeberry fruit and their preserves are used in the treatment of certain conditions. Effective 4 April 1959, the Pharmacological Board of the former USSR Ministry of Health recommended black chokeberry fruit and juice for wide clinical use in the treatment of hypertension, arteriosclerosis and gastritis. In 1966 industrial scale production of Vitamin C+P started, with ascorbic acid and Vitamin P obtained from dried chokeberry pomace (containing 16600-18250 mg%) as a raw material. This medical product is recommended in the treatment of haemorrhoids, capillary conditions, haemorrhages and - in the first place - hypertension. In Poland, chokeberry juice is the basis for geriatric drugs.
The contents of vitamins in chokeberry fruit are as follows: Vitamin C 14-28 mg% (max. up to 50 mg%), carotene (pro-Vitamin A) 1.8-2.5 mg%, B2 0.1 mg%, B9 0.05-0.1 mg%, E 0.5-0.8 mg%, PP 0.6-0.8 mg%.
Juice extracted from fresh chokeberry fruit (7-9% sugars, 0.8-1.1% acids, ca. 400 mg% Vitamin P, all the above mentioned vitamins and microelements, as well as small amounts of yeast and natural antibiotics) is widely used in medicine and food processing. With fresh fruit the juice extraction rate is ca. 75%, and with frozen fruit it increases up to 80%. With the addition of sugar, chokeberry juice tastes nice and can be used both for immediate consumption and for jelly desserts, colouring and as an additive to carbonated waters and other drinks. Natural chokeberry juice has an intensive and clear ruby-red colour, which makes it ideal to blend with colourless juices, e.g. apple juice, which is of particular value in winemaking.
Fresh chokeberry fruit can be widely used in food processing, particularly as a colouring and vitamin additive to other common and less valuable fruit. Preserves, jelly desserts, jams, marmalades, confectionery fillings and other products have a nice and unique taste and a beautiful colour. Particularly valuable are the preserves, in which the P-active compounds can be conserved almost intact and one tablespoon of chokeberry preserves meets the daily requirements for Vitamin P. Candied fruit, used in confectionery, have similar properties.
Dried chokeberry fruit are also a valuable raw material, from which - when properly dried - a beautifully coloured therapeutic extract can be prepared. 50 g of dried fruit can supply a therapeutic daily dose of P-active compounds in the treatment of above mentioned conditions. As a preventive measure, dried chokeberry teas or in composition with other dried fruit (e.g. rosehip or hawthorn) can be used.
Last but not least, the pomace from the juice extraction process
is used to extract pigments. As a waste product, pomace can be a
valuable material to obtain natural ruby-red dyes. Natural dyes
are now becoming more and more popular in food processing industry
as the use of synthetic dyes becomes less common.
Piotr Eggert, MSc. Eng.