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Developed by Lois Berg Stack, Extension Specialist, Ornamental Horticulture, and Professor, Sustainable Agriculture, University of Maine, and Mark H. Brand, Professor, Horticulture, University of Connecticut.
Aronia, also called black chokeberry, is a cold-hardy deciduous shrub, native to eastern North America. In landscapes, it has long been valued for its white flowers in spring, reddish fall foliage color, and adaptability to many sites. It is also planted in wildlife gardens, where its late summer fruits are prized by several animals including white-tailed deer, rabbits, ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens.
More recently, aronia has attracted attention as a food and nutraceutical crop. Aronia fruits can be eaten whole (they’re usually canned, and not eaten fresh), and their juice can be used in jelly and similar products. The juice can also be added to fruit juice beverages, where it is valued for its high levels of anthocyanins and flavonoids. This market has caused renewed interest in aronia as a crop for Northeast producers.
New crops offer several advantages. There is less competition when a crop first enters the marketplace, and prices may be higher than when the crop is more established. Producing an unusual product often attracts attention and creates interest in the marketplace. And, value-added opportunities may increase at a rapid pace in the early years of a crop’s establishment in the marketplace.
There are also some disadvantages to new crops. There may be little information about how to obtain plants, or grow them, or harvest and process them. Crop advisers may not have experience with all new crops. Research is generally not as robust as with long-term crops. Consumers’ lack of familiarity may require a high level of education and marketing. Information about handling the crop, such specifics about how and when to harvest, how to store and transport, and how to market, are not always well established. Quality and marketing standards may not be established.
Image Description: Aronia melanocarpa 'Viking'
Image Description: Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) logo