A trendy fruit with historical roots

The triumph of the aronia berry

Aronia – a new superfood, or an old one? Even though aronia berries are rare 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 and First Nations.

Aronia berries in Native American traditions

According to some sources, aronia berries have been used by certain Native American tribes along the North American east coast for centuries. These people prepared a pemmican for journeys or for winter stores, which together with dried meat, contained a quantity of fat. If dried berries were added to this mixture, the Iroquois then called it a mocakin. This chewy mixture typically had a high nutritional content as well as a long shelf life. The composition is similar to today’s energy bars, a mix of various ingredients all of which contribute to the body’s performance.

Small cakes could also be baked using the berries. For these purposes, Native Americans dried the berries and crushed them into a powder. However, they did not just process the aronia fruit but they also used the leaves. These were brewed with hot water into a decoction , which was drunk to alleviate cold symptoms.

Highly frost-resistant due to refining with rowan and medlar

Various sources report that plants similar to aronia were spotted in Europe as early as the start of the 19th century, but we are certain only that aronia shoots found their way to Russia by the end of the same century. In 1901, botanist Ivan Mitschurin was already experimenting with aronia, medlar, and other plants in the Russian part of the Altai region in order to develop frost-resistant varieties that could be adapted to the local climate. To this end, he grafted aronia shoots to a rowan trunk, thus creating a standard/tall-stemmed plant that could survive unscathed in temperatures as low as -30°C.

Development of regional crops in central Europe

As of the 1950s, the berries spread from the Balkan states and Scandinavia to central Europe. Since the mid 1970s, large crops have also been grown in eastern Germany. To date, Saxony, Brandenburg, and Bavaria produce the majority of Germany’s aronia.