It’s unlikely that you’ve heard of Aronia berries so let me fill you in. Also called chokeberries, these berries are native to eastern regions of North America, but have been cultivated and bred in Europe for years. Some Aronia are now being cultivated in North America, however most actually grow wild, which is how I discovered this berry the other day. On a bike adventure with a friend along the Saint Lawrence River, we made a little stop at Parc des Rapides in LaSalle. It’s a cool place to watch the Lachine Rapids and is also a federal migratory bird sanctuary. I noticed these berries as we were walking along, which look like blueberries, but my friend urged me not to eat them in case they were poisonous. Probably a good idea. The very next day my mom sends me an email about Aronia berries and I made the connection almost instantly. So excited to try this new berry I went back to Parc des Rapides and discretely gathered a bunch of berries. Upon trying one my face cringed and it felt like all the saliva in my mouth was being sucked out. I then wondered why anyone would want to eat this sour berry, so I did a little research.
The name “chokeberry” comes from the astringency of the fruits, which explains my first taste of the berry. Being more suitable for processing than for consuming directly, Europeans have been making jams, wine, and tea from Aronia berries for generations. Their deep purple, almost black pigmentation comes from very dense contents of anthocyanins. They have one of the highest anthocyanin contents, meaning it’s one of the most potent antioxidant foods. Research has shown that Aronia berries exhibit over 5 times more antioxidant activity than blueberries, and over 8 times more than cranberries. Along with its high antioxidant capacity, Aronia berries also have high contents of potassium and zinc. Preliminary findings have also discovered that the berries could have anti-mutagenic and anti-cancer activity, cardio-protective activity, and an anti-diabetic effect. Two places where I know you can get Aronia berries are at Parc des Rapides and at Lutick Farm near Midland, Ontario. Unfortunately, if you don’t live in Montreal or near Midland, it might be a bit difficult to get your hands on some. If I find out other places to get these berries I will let you know, and I think it’s only a matter of time before this superfood catches on and becomes more readily available.
Due to the high pectin content in Aronia berries, they are suitable for making jams. Here’s the recipe for the jam I made with the Aronia berries, along with the other rosehip berries I discovered at Parc des Rapides. Although it took me 45 minutes to de-seed the rosehip berries, it was well worth it in the end. Delicious jam full of antioxidants, and all for free! (I should probably start a blog about how to get free things, as I have been blessed with this resourceful Battiston gene.)
Aronia Rosehip Jam
1.5 cups Aronia berries
1.5 cups Rosehip berries (de-seeded)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup honey
Combine ingredients into a pot and mash everything together. Boil for 30 minutes, stirring as you go. If you want a sweet jam, just add more honey. Make sure you let it cool and enjoy your antioxidant filled jam. As Kramer would say, Giddyup!