The aronia berry, whose botanical name is Aronia melanocarpa but is commonly known as chokeberry, contains more antioxidants than blueberries, elderberries, and other fruits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave it an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) rating of 15,280 umol per 100 grams, which dwarfs other fruits. 

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Aronia bushes are native to the eastern United States and grow in hardiness zones 3 through 8. Viking and Nero varieties are best for fruit production. Many other varieties are for ornamental purposes. The round, pea-sized berries grow in clusters after the second or third year of planting and can be harvested in late August into September. Yields as high as 37 pounds per bush have been recorded, but growers should expect yields of 15 to 20 pounds at maturity. When planting aronia, follow these guidelines.

1. The bushes can be planted any time when the ground is not frozen, but spring and fall plantings usually yield the best results.

2. Aronia prefers full sun, but is tolerant of some shade.

3. It grows in a range of soil types, but prefers slightly acidic soil, between 6 and 7 pH.

4. To plant, first get a soil test and amend soil as needed.

5. Dig a hole about three times the width of the plant and about as deep as the plant’s container.

6. Mix organic materials such as compost or composted manure into the soil to improve fertility and water retention.

7. Apply about 4 inches of mulch around the shrub to keep weeds under control and to retain moisture.

8. Keep them well watered, especially  when first planted.

This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Spring 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.

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