Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial — by Kevin Jarvis February 20, 2013
Aronia, also known as chokeberry, is a bush with a long history. It seems to have been forgotten for many years as a food source but has recently been “re-discovered”. There are two well-known species, named after their fruit color — red chokeberry and black chokeberry — plus a purple chokeberry whose origin is a natural hybrid of the two (Aronia arbutifolia, Aronia melanocarpa, Aronia prunifolia).
Originally cultivated and used by native Americans in the eastern USA, it is not to be confused with chokecherry — Prunus virginiana. The berries can be used to in a wide variety of uses such as wine, jam, syrup, juice, soft spreads, tea and tinctures and in smoothies. As the properties and uses of this wonderful berry come into light it is becoming more and more popular and these benefits make it especially useful in permaculture design.
Today most use chokeberry as an ornamental plant, but also more and more for its food use because of their very high content of antioxidant pigment compounds, like anthocyanin. The name "chokeberry" comes from the astringency of the fruits, which some say are inedible when raw. I personally disagree with this statement, but do prefer other berries raw to this one.
Now we have some of the basics of the plant out of the way we can now discuss how these wonderful plants can be used by in our Permaculture designs. As mentioned above, it is originally from the Eastern USA, but it seems to do well in a variety of differing climates. One article say it likes “wet woods and swamps”. I have found it here in Sweden, mostly used as a hedge in sunny dry areas. Plants sold here in greenhouses are of a Russian variety so are very well suited to the Swedish Climate. Its use as a hedge makes it ideal as a windbreak or wildlife “fence”.
It is a very easy plant to propagate. One method is that the fruits are eaten by birds, which then disperse the seeds in their droppings. Birds do not taste astringency and feed on them freely. One article “warned” to harvest all of the berries or those dropped would be sure to grow. Cuttings can be taken in the spring under new growth. One or two areas of new plant growth are then removed and the cutting either direct planted or put into a pot.
An area we harvested from last fall was about 30 sq/meters. In this area we got over 50kg of fruit and we didn’t take all the berries! Now during our cold Swedish winter we have a lots of wonderful high antioxidant jam and over 25 liters of wine!