More on Aronia!
I did not do justice on Black Chokeberry in my last post about it. This morning I biked to a strip of Aronia melanocarpa that my friend had discovered, and we discussed all the reasons that it is a fantastic resource to know for surviving an urban apocalypse while we loaded up bags and bags of plump berries.
The berries of Aronia (that’s what grocers and co-ops have started calling the berry, rather than “chokeberry” in an effort to brand it as actually edible and healthy) are bitter but certainly not toxic.
Birds generally don’t like them because of their astringency, and humans tend to avoid them for fear of them being poisonous (and out of general naivete). This means that if you find or plant an Aronia bush, it will most likely remain untouched by competitors!
Black chokeberries are a commonly used decorative plant as well. The strip I encountered was within a heavily landscaped urban plaza, along a bike path near high rise apartments. They grow easily (and can spread through suckers if uncontrolled), so finding them within the city is not too challenging. Being able to identify this plant will thus give you an edge over other survivors in the apocalypse!
The fruit is ready to be harvested in late summer or early fall–the ones I picked this morning were not fully ripened (good for making jam), but will be by September. The berries are full of antioxidants (in fact more-so than almost any other plant) and help prevent conditions like cancer and heart disease. As I’ve pointed out here before, nobody wants to make it through the apocalypse only to die of something like cancer or liver failure.
Harvesting the berries is pleasantly easy, and almost addicting. The berries hang lower than most of the leaves and disconnect from their stems freely. My friend and I picked for about an hour and collected over 25 lbs. They can be eaten raw, canned, cooked in pies, made into juice or all sorts of other things.
Identifying chokeberries can be tricky, as they look similar to chokecherries, buckthorn and other shrubs—although chokecherries are also edible. The leaves are glabrous (hairless), darker on top than underneath. The buds on the branches are red, and the branches themselves are brownish/reddish and have lots of lenticels (lenticels are the things that look like this). You can distinguish chokeberries from chokecherries by the fact that the berries have many seeds while cherries have a singular pit.
I developed a new appreciation for Aronia melanocarpa today. Harvesting them was so gosh darn easy, and the buckwheat aronia waffles I made for lunch were delicious. This one will be good to know for when the bomb hits.