Friday, 14 December 2012

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

The black chokeberry is a deciduous shrub from the Rosaceae family. It is native to eastern North America and has become popular in Eastern Europe and Russia. It is very easy to grow, very hardy and never fails to produce edible black berries each year. We planted it, ignored it and thereafter picked the fruit in the autumn. Very easy. This is the way it should be!

An image of a black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) shrub
Black chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa)

Growing methods

We purchased our shrub ready grown. However, they can be grown from fresh seed as soon as they are ripe or from dried seed. Dried seed should be soaked and then cold stratified for three months before sowing. Seeds can then be sown in pots, grown in a cold frame for their first winter and then planted out in their final position in the following spring. Shrubs can be propagated by taking softwood cuttings in the summer. Cuttings should root easily. Chokeberries also produce suckers and these can be successfully dug up and transplanted to produce a new shrub.

An image of black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)
Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) leaves

Chokeberries produce white flowers from July to August and then clusters of glossy black fruit (6-9cm in diameter) from September onwards which hang down from red pedicels. The fruit contains a number of small seeds which ripen from October to December. The leaves turn a spectacular shade of orange in the autumn and provide attractive autumn colour.

Shrubs will grow in most soils and conditions although they do like a bit of sun. Ours is in shade until the afternoon and grown in heavy clay soil up against a wall. They grow up to about 3 metres in height and spread. The flowers are pollinated by insects.

Shrubs can be pruned as required but are probably best left to get on with it. They know what they are doing. These shrubs are very hardy will tolerate disease, pollution, drought, salt, soil compaction and insect infestation. They will even tolerate temperatures as low as -25°C.

The birds have tended to leave the fruit alone unless there is nothing else to eat and there is really no need to go to all the trouble of protecting them with netting. Fruit tends to remain on the shrub for a very long time and will often shrivel and dry but can still be eaten.

Vigorous cultivars are available e.g. 'Viking' and 'Nero', which produce larger leaves, flowers and fruit.

Health benefits

Originally considered to be of little medicinal value, new research shows that Aronia melanocarpa has a high concentration of polyphenols and anthocyanins, stimulating circulation, protecting the urinary tract, and strengthening the heart. Ongoing studies at the University of Illinois also suggest it may include compounds that fight cancer and cardiac disease.

Raw edible parts

The fruit which look a little like a blackcurrant, are edible raw. Ensure they are fully black and ripe before eating otherwise they can be rather tart and unpalatable. Some references say they have to be cooked first but this isn't the case and as long as they are ripe, they are fine. They are rather mealy and, while not the most sweet or our most favourite fruit, they are extremely beneficial. The fruit can also be dried and turn out like little raisins but are not sweet like raisins. We prefer to eat them fresh straight from the bush or added to smoothies.

Fruit from the red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) and the purple chokeberry (Aronia prunifolia) are also edible raw in the same way. The former is supposed to be sweeter and more palatable raw although we haven't tasted it as yet. There are no known adverse side effects from eating the fruit.


  1. When eating the raw berries directly from the plant, do you have to remove/avoid the seed inside or can they be eaten whole, seed included?
    I'm trying to get the courage to have my first one, grown from my backyard prior to any knowledge of health benefits and just grown for wildlife.


    1. I know it's been a while, but maybe you will still read this reply of mine.... ALWAYS eat the seeds in small fruits, in apples, in oranges and grapes. They are the reason why the plant made the fruit! The amount of nutrients in those seeds is phenomenal! Chew them thoroughly, and you will get the most benefit! (Even though they may not taste like much, but that is besides the point... it is for their health benefits!)
      Hope this helps!

    2. I thought I read that apple seeds were toxic?

    3. I eat avocado seeds all the time. Lots of antioxidants.

    4. Apple seeds contain small amounts of cyanide. Chokecherries are very bitter and are best used in jams and jellies, I don't think you can eat very many of them raw.

    5. Just eaten three handfuls of them. Nice. Of course, you could mix them with other berries... or a little dark chocolate :-)

  2. You can safely eat the seed! If you don't like them on their own, they can be added to smoothies along with any other berries.

  3. I have tried to find information on the edibility of the flower, not the berry. Do you have any information on this or other use for the blossoms?

    1. We have eaten one or two flowers with no ill effects although tend to leave the flowers so that fruit develops properly. Sorry, we don't really have any further information on the flowers.

  4. Chokeberry seeds are fine. Apple seeds are toxic! Definitely read about each seed before consuming it. Most are fine but there are some can be very bad. Make sure they're ok for pets before giving your furry friend a treat too grape seeds will kill a dog. And yeah, avocado seeds are incredibly beneficial to your health

    1. I used to work in a zoo and we never fed avocados to the chimps as the seeds are toxic to them so I would tend to think they would be to humans

  5. Chokeberry seeds are fine. Apple seeds are toxic! Definitely read about each seed before consuming it. Most are fine but there are some can be very bad. Make sure they're ok for pets before giving your furry friend a treat too grape seeds will kill a dog. And yeah, avocado seeds are incredibly beneficial to your health

  6. brought my bush last year, just picked my first berries, cant wait to make my first smoothie

  7. These shrubs are native here in North Bay, Canada where it reaches -40C in most winters. The astringency comes from the skins, but they can be filtered out to make fantastic fresh juice.

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