Aronia melanocarpa

Aronia melanocarpa

The black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa (Michx.) Elliott 1821) is a shrub species belonging to the Rosaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view, it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Plantae Kingdom, Subregion Tracheobionta, Spermatophyta Super Division, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Rosidae Subclass, Rosales Order, Rosales Family, Rosaceae Family, Maloideae Subfamily and therefore to the Genus Aronia and to the Species A. melanocarpa.
The terms are synonymous:
– Mespilus arbutifolia var. melanocarpa Michx. 1803;
– Adenorachis melanocarpa (Michx.) Nieuwl .;
– Aronia nigra (Willd.) Britton;
– Photinia melanocarpa (Michx.) K.R.Robertson & J.B.Phipps;
– Pyrus melanocarpa (Michx.) Willd .;
– Sorbus melanocarpa (Michx.) Heynh ..

Etymology –
The term Aronia comes from the Greek ἀρωνία aronía, name of a sort of loquat mentioned by Dioscorides.
The specific epithet melanocarpa is derived from the Greek μέλας -ανος mélas –anos, black and from καρπός carpós, fruit: with black fruits.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
Aronia melanocarpa is a plant native to eastern North America, with a distribution that goes from Canada to the central United States, from Newfoundland in the west to Ontario and Minnesota, in the south to Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia.
This plant was also introduced and is cultivated in Europe.

Description –
The black Aronia is a medium-sized, deciduous shrub plant.
It develops numerous erect stems, densely branched, which reach 90-150 cm in height.
The leaves are lanceolate, bright green, which turn reddish or orange in autumn, before falling.
In the late spring period it produces large bouquets of pinkish-white flowers with five petals.
The fruits that are small and round, similar to blueberries, pendulous, which turn black when ripe.

Cultivation –
Black Aronia is a somewhat rustic plant that can be grown with exposure to both full sun and partial shade.
It requires possibly subacid and fresh but not limestone soils.
These are plants that do not fear the cold weather and can endure very harsh temperatures. They are also suitable for use in road beds, as they tolerate pollution, and even the brackish air of marine areas without problems. Although in its spontaneous state it grows in poorly lit areas such as undergrowth, when used for the production of fruits or for ornamental purposes it is preferable to always place them in full sun. This is because in a hot area, flowering, pollination and fruiting are significantly greater.
The plant takes advantage of irrigation, especially in the summer, avoiding stagnation.
For fertilization, the contribution of organic substance is recommended just before the spring vegetative restart.
These shrubs, moreover, since they have a dense development, to prevent them from losing the leaves in the innermost areas, it is advisable to prune the old stems at the base, every 3-4 years.
As for the multiplication of this plant occurs by seed, in autumn, or by semi-woody cutting in summer. The aronies produce numerous basal shoots, in late spring it is possible to divide them from the mother plant and plant them individually.
For planting, the best period for planting is from October to December, but it is also possible to operate until March-April, avoiding the months when the soil is frozen and too full of water.
It is good to work the area well in advance, so that the soil can revitalize. We will incorporate good quantities of organic soil conditioner (possibly well-seasoned flour manure). If we notice an excessively calcareous soil, it will be good to include a little blonde peat in it.
The ideal distance between an individual and the other is about 1 meter, between the rows, however, should be left at least 3-4 meters.
To have a good production it will be necessary to wait at least four years. Full production starts from the seventh year from the plant and stands at around 10 tons per hectare, about 2.5 kg per single plant.
The fruits need about three months to mature. Harvesting can begin in October (a little earlier in the south of the peninsula). We check that the fruits are well black or red (depending on the species) and then cut the whole corymb at the base. We always use gloves because the dye released by the fruits is difficult to remove from the hands.
Finally, on the pest front, these plants are generally very resistant and are not affected by pests or diseases.

Uses and Traditions –
Aronia melanocarpa is a plant that was introduced to Eastern Europe, Asia, Scandinavia and Russia in the early twentieth century.
It has aroused the interest of many nurserymen and botanists to the point that research began immediately to obtain hybrids suitable both for ornamental purposes and to maximize fruit production.
It is currently considered, in some northern European countries, to be slightly invasive and some attention must therefore be paid when introducing it to your garden.
In the places of origin it has been known since ancient times and was commonly used by natives for its many nutritional and healing virtues.
The fruits of this plant are edible and very welcome even by birds; they can be eaten raw, even if, generally, they undergo processing with the aim of significantly improving their taste. In their natural state, in fact, they are particularly acidic. Once cooked, the sourness disappears, giving way to a very sweet taste.
Juices, jams and sauces are made from it. They are also used to flavor herbal teas, chewing gum and ice cream. They are also used massively to produce natural dyes (especially intense pink, given the massive presence of anthocyanins). However, they are particularly rich in vitamins (such as C, B1 and B2, in addition to provitamin A), in fibers and in flavonoids and therefore considered an authentic panacea for heart health, to reduce blood sugar in diabetics and as antioxidants for the fight aging.
In the United States, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Aronia melanocarpa is one of the foods with the highest antioxidant properties.
Moreover, scientific studies certify that the fruit of this plant is rich in these substances, essential to keep the action of free radicals at bay, therefore to counteract cellular aging and related pathologies.
The dark purple of the berries is due precisely to the very high concentration of anthocyanins, equal to about 1480 mg per 100 grams of fresh berries (about triple the number of blueberries). The ORAC (Oxigen Radical Absorbence Capacity) of the melanocarpa aronia is equal to 16,062 micromol per 100 grams of fresh berries.
If the antioxidant properties of aronia are attributable to the large amount of polyphenolic substances contained – i.e. flavonoids, anthocyanins and tannins – the good presence of vitamins C, K, minerals and fibers completes the picture of the nutritional and beneficial properties of melanocarpa aronia.
The polyphenolic substances in addition to counteracting the action of free radicals and the degenerative processes due to aging have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-atherogenic properties (i.e. they hinder cholesterol and other factors underlying atherosclerosis). Vitamin K is a friend of bones, C is very important for the formation of collagen and therefore for the skin. Fibers stimulate intestinal activity.
Aronia melanocarpa juice, also containing quinic acid, counteracts urinary tract infections: drinking harmony juice therefore helps to purify it. But drinking aronia juice as well as having antioxidant and purifying properties of the urinary tract is also good for the heart, because it strengthens blood circulation and strengthens blood vessels, thus preventing coagulation and other cardiovascular disorders, thus ultimately acting as a brake against possible ischemic heart disease.
More in detail, laboratory studies (carried out on pigs) have shown how aronia juice strengthens the growth of endothelial cells of blood vessels and has an antiplatelet effect on thrombocytes, thus protecting the coronary arteries. More generally, the beneficial effects on the circulation of aronia, especially in the case of capillaries that tend to dilate and break easily, are due to the ability of the anthocyanins to combat platelet aggregation and vasodilation by exercising a beneficial action on the microcirculation that if poorly functioning it causes capillary disorders as well as swelling in the legs.
According to other studies conducted on humans, aronia juice reduces total cholesterol, including “bad” LDL, and other lipids present in the blood. Studies in adult males have shown that drinking aronia juice significantly reduces the concentration of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing the concentration of so-called good cholesterol (HDL).
According to another study, the daily intake of 200 ml of aronia juice by a group of men for three months was effective in cutting sugars and triglycerides present in the blood. Taken on an empty stomach, the juice of the black chokeberry fruits caused glucose levels to drop in patients with diabetes (not dependent on insulin) suggesting a possible application of the precious fruit for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
Aronia also has beneficial properties for the eyesight, as anthocyanins strengthen the resistance of the capillaries of the retina, improve night vision and that of the tired eye.
As for the contraindications, so far they have not been detected for the consumption of aronia juice.

Method of Preparation –
Berries and chokeberry juice lend themselves to numerous uses: not only can they be consumed fresh, alone or together with muesli, cereals, yogurt and milk (both cow’s milk and substitute drinks of vegetable origin); they are also excellent basic ingredients for preparing many tasty recipes. Smoothies can be made.
This smoothie can be obtained by putting a handful of aronia berries in a blender, peel and cut a banana into pieces and add a glass of almond milk or coconut milk (according to personal taste).
A sweet bread with aronia berries can be prepared.
To obtain your aronia sweet bread, put 500 g of flour and 15 g of brewer’s yeast in the bowl of the kneading machine. Heat 250 ml of milk, a teaspoon of salt, 125 gr of sugar and 50 gr of butter in a saucepan, stirring constantly. Pour the milk thus obtained on the flour little by little and knead. Add 240 grams of dried aronia berries (soaked in a little milk) and when the dough has well blended, cover with a cloth and let rise for a couple of hours. After this time, knead the dough again and transfer it to a greased and floured plumcake mold. Let it rise again for an hour and bake at 200 degrees – in a preheated oven – for 45/50 minutes (periodically check the cooking).
Finally, you can prepare aronia juice muffins.
In this case, juice is used. Put 250 g of flour in the bowl of the kneading machine. Add 150 g of sugar, 1 egg, 100 ml of diluted aronia juice, 50 ml of seed oil, 1 sachet of yeast, one of vanillin and mix all the ingredients together. Pour the dough into the baking cups, cover with granulated sugar to taste and bake at 180 degrees for 15/20 minutes (also in this case, do the toothpick test to check the cooking level).

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for information purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore, no responsibility is accepted for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.



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