Even though aronia berries are less common in this part of the world, they are not really a “new” type of berry. Originally from North America, the history of this berry extends back to precolonial times and is associated with the traditions of Native Americans.
Historically, black chokeberry was used by the North American Forest Potawatomi tribe. They called the fruits nîki’mînûn or sakwako’mînûn and used them to make a tea for the treatment of colds. Both the Potawatomi and Abnaki tribes used the fruit for food. The berries were used in the preparation of pemmican, a nutritious and long-lasting foodstuff prepared from animal fat, dried powdered meat, and sometimes fruit. According to an ethnobotanical account from 1933, the Forest Potawatomi reported that “they eat the berries from this plant but they are entirely too bitter to suit the white man.” Among North American settlers, both the berries and the bark were used as an astringent.
Commercial cultivation of black chokeberry is a relatively recent development. Although the plant is a North American species, Ivan Mitschurin, a Soviet botanist, discovered it in 1904 and named it A. melanocarpa after noticing the unusually large fruits at the Belozersk Forestry Office in Russia. He began breeding experiments in Russia in 1910 with the goal of developing a sweet-tasting rowan berry by crossing black chokeberry with Sorbus or Mespilus species. His work resulted in two cultivars, ‘Likernaja’ and ‘Desertnaja Michurina.’ In 1982, Mitschurin’s varieties were named as a new hybrid species A. x mitschurinii.
The following Aronia varieties have been developed through hybridization:
• Nero, Viking, Ahonnen from Finland
Aronia x prunifolia is a cross between Aronia melanocarpa and Aronia prunifolia, which was made in Finland by an amateur breeder in 1945. The variety Ahonnen (or Uhto) was selected from this cross. In 1964, the selection ‘Viking’ was made from it. With its particularly large fruit, Ahonnen has always been the most important cultivated variety of Aronia in Europe.
• Rubina, Hugin from Sweden
• Fertödi from Hungary
• Aron, Serina und Hakkija from Denmark
• Moravska sladkoploda from Slovakia
• Kashamachi und Mandschurica from Estonia
Aronia was reintroduced into the U.S. in the 1970s by botanist Robert F. Hoover while traveling in eastern Siberia. He brought back seeds of nine cultivars, which have been evaluated at numerous research sites since 1980. These Aronia cultivars include ‘Nero’ (or ‘Markka’), ‘Lapponica’, and ‘Rubin’. An excellent selection, especially for juice production, is the Aronia x prunifolia ‘Nero’.
So which variety of Aronia is right for you?
At Tyrian Industries we primarily utilize the Viking variety. Research has demonstrated that it contains some of the highest polyphenol levels among the various cultivars and it grows exceptionally well in the rich farmland of the midwest.