Do you know the aronia berries, also called chokeberries? We have a few bushes on our premises so we got a chance to get to know them this year and would love to share that knowledge with you, too!
Aronia mitschurinii - Russian cultivated berry shrub
The Aronia (chokeberry) genus grows naturally only in North America, but it has been cultivated in Russia for at least 70 years. With a genotype differing from those of the American chokeberries (like the black ones, Aronia melanocarpa and the red ones, Aronia arbutifolia), the Aronia mitschurinii was probably developed by the plant breeder Ivan V. Mitsurin in the early 1900s. Interestingly, genetic testing indicates it is likely a hybrid between Aronia melanocarpa and Sorbus aucuparia (mountain ash) that apparently originated in cultivation by the above mentioned Mr. Mitsurin. As this indicates that the mitschurinii plant is not a 100% Aronia genotype, the plant is nowadays often called Sorbaronia mitschurinii. We call it "Marja-aronia" (berry aronia) here in Finland so I think I will stick with that for the time being.
The berry aronia is a big shrub with tree-like branches. A big plant in full sun can produce up to 10kg of berries, which are rather sweet but full of astringent tannins. Sources say this makes the berries unsuitable for eating fresh, but ours were delicious straight from the bush - given they were completely ripe.
There's a funny saying about berry aronia I read somewhere - it's the berry that is red when it's raw. That's true! Truly ripe berries are almost black. Then they are full with vitamin C and antioxidants. They are really healthy. Ha, they are so healthy and so wonky-tasting you could give them to kids as medicine!
Our Aronia plants
We have two bushes currently, they are mature and especially the other one made a great harvest last year. I collected perhaps 10-15 litres of berries. I gave my sister a bunch, and the rest was made into jam (recipe coming), and some I froze whole.
These pictures here are from harvest season 2016. They say the bush is very beautiful when it blooms. I am very much waiting to see that! See, we arrived here last May when the aronia had bloomed already (or we were just too caught up in the move to notice) so I haven't seen our plants bloom yet.
Spring, hurry up!