Chokeberry belongs the Rosaceae family, subfamily Amygdaloideae. Beside the familiar black Aronia melanocarpa, there are the red Aronia arbutifolia and purple Aronia prunifolia, chokeberries that are not important for commercial cultivation.
It's grown as a fruit or decorative plant on all types of soil and at all altitudes. Planting is done in the autumn, during the winter, and in the early spring, under the condition that the soil isn't frozen and the vegetative period hasn't started yet. Plants from containers can be planted during the vegetative period in water-filled holes after which another round of watering is necessary to promote plant growth.
Plot preparation includes basic soil work such as plowing to a depth of around 30 centimeters, and tilling to level and fragment the top layer. Transplanting is best done soon after taking the seedlings from the nursery. Before planting, the plot has to be fertilized with NPK 15:15:15 fertilizers, 500-600 kg/ha or 50-60 grams per hole, after which the fertilizer is mixed with soil to prevent direct contact with the roots so that the possible toxic impact of the strong fertilizers and withering of the plant is avoided. If manure is used, 40-50 t/ha, the amount of NPK fertilizers has to be halved.
During the vegetative period a plantation needs around 500 kg/ha of NPK 8:16:24 or similar a year. Since chokeberry is a slow-growing plant, fertilizers can be applied in rows where planting will take place.
Due to its resistance to diseases and pests, Chokeberry doesn't need protection, making it ideal for organic and bio-ecological cultivation. It also doesn't absorb heavy metals and toxic gasses, and it can grow on ash covered soils, tailings, landfills and terrains with standing water, though the best results are expected on naturally fertile and sunny plots.
Planting and maintenance - Yield and fruit quality mostly depend on seedling quality, fertilization, irrigation, and regular weed control. The best seedlings come from tissue culture - clones have excellently developed and entirely uniform root systems that contribute to fast growth and progression.
On larger plantations chokeberry is planted without supports in rows spaced at 3 meters. Rows, ideally oriented North-South, are marked with rope, then every 1.5 meters is tagged with sticks driven into the planting places. If the soil is well fragmented and moist, planting goes fairly fast. Holes around 20 centimeters deep and 30 centimeters in diameter can be dug with a hoe. After planting is done, soil that has been put over the roots needs to be compressed by stepping on it carefully so that the side branches growing from the root neck - offshoots that form the bush, don't get damaged. There can be up to 30 of them, and they may reach up to 2.5 meters in height and 3 meters in diameter. Maximum development and full yield is achieved only in the 10th year, when each plant can produce 5-10 kilograms of fruit. During that period and if the soil is fertile, chokeberry can develop a root system with fibers over 700 meters long, where 90% of them are thinner than 1 millimeter. Roots spread in a diameter matching that of the plant's aboveground portion, at a 1.5 meter depth, which helps the plant absorb large quantities of water and nutrients. Optimal soil moisture for high yields is around 75% of field water capacity - 75% of pores are supposed to be filled with water, the rest with air.
Plantation care includes regular weed control and irrigation. Aisles can be used for vegetable growing until the chokeberry plants mature. For organic growing, the aisles could be populated with white clover that prevents weed growth.
Harvesting - Chokeberry is a slow grower. It starts bearing fruits in second or third year of life, depending on the plant's vigor, and then it fruits each year. Good care speeds up otherwise slow growth and enables fruiting even in the second year, that is, right after planting, while irrigation assures high yield and quality. Chokeberry flowers in April, and fruiting that starts in August lasts around a month. Ripe berries don't rot or get wormy, and most wither on the plant over the whole autumn and winter if the summer was mildly hot. It happens that when leafing begins in the spring, the branches still have dry, berries from the previous year.
Nutritional and medicinal properties - Chokeberry fruits are rich with nutritional and medicinal elements. They contain 25-30% of dry matter, mostly saccharides, 6.2-10.8% sugars, 3.0-3.1% cellulose,0.63-0.75% pectin, 0.7-1.3% organic acids, and 600-2300mg% anthocyanin. They are a true treasure-house of macro and micro elements such as iron, calcium, copper, iodine, boron, molybdenum, manganese, potassium and cobalt, then vitamins C, P, PP, B6, E, and pro-vitamin A. Though the most important element in ripe black chokeberry is anthocyanin. 100 grams of fresh fruits contains up to 1480 milligrams of this matter (second in anthocanin content is black raspberry with around 320 milligrams, then black currant with 250 milligrams, and blackberry with 205 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh fruit) and 664 milligrams of proanthocyanidin in and right beneath the skin, which the plant uses to protect its flesh and seeds from harmful effects of UV radiation. Berries' color and sheen attract birds and other animals that in a natural environment help spread the seeds. All the listed elements, including the phytoncides - compounds that chokeberry produces to protect itself from insects, fungi, bacteria, and viruses - make chokeberry both food and medicine that strengthens the immune system, slows down aging, has antiseptic effects, and along with antioxidants (it contains 16100 ORAC units)lowers the risk of and potentially helps to treat many chronic illnesses such as colon cancer, inactive liver, cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammations, gastrointestinal problems, uveitis, and urinary tract diseases.
In both diets and medicinally, chokeberry is usually consumed as cold pressed fruit juice, pasteurized at 85-95°C (92°C) for 15 minutes which makes it usable for 2 years. One kilogram of fresh, undamaged fruits, yields 500-600 milliliters of dense, dark, almost black juice that can be diluted with water, tea or other fruit juices (apple or quince). 100 milliliters of juice contain at minimum 150 milligrams of vitamin P (bioflavonoid), and at most 63 kCal of energy. Juice is to be used carefully, like the other medicines, three times a day, each time 50 milliliters, while for satisfying daily vitamin P intake, 30 fresh berries a day is enough. They can be stored for 15-20 days in supermarkets in low crates or plastic containers. They can be kept in cold storage at a temperature of +2°C in a shallow layer, like apples.
Chokeberries can be made into a jam, slatko, jelly, fruit yogurt, compote, juice cocktails with apples, oranges and other fruits, wine, and rakija.