I thank my friend Gene for opening my eyes to the wonders and delights of the aronia berry. This darling of the superfood-berry-loving set just a few years ago, the aronia berry has not exactly caught on (apparently) here in the Midwest. I’ve only seen a few bushes around and I didn’t even know what they were, until Gene clued me in. Nobody I’ve talked to (aside from Gene’s friends) seems to know what they are. It’s a cryin’ shame. We’re aronia berry ignorant, and this must stop, by gum.
Heck. We’s educated folks. After all. We do care about what we put into our bodies.
I’m going to do my part to spread the news. Because this berry is something we all should become well acquainted with. I think of aronia berries–after a week’s worth of picking, cleaning and using aronia berries in my kitchen–as the poor man’s blueberry. Or the poor woman’s blueberry.
More accurately, perhaps, it’s the poor-Midwestern-gardener-who-is-trying-to-grow-blueberries-in-the-wrong-soil’s blueberry. Are you following me? Do you, for example, have a heartfelt love of blueberries, enough that you’ve bought a blueberry bush (or 30) and have studied the literature and have planted them, maybe years ago, and are still waiting for them to take off and produce like crazy?
Still. Waiting. Could this be (bless your heart!) you?
I’m not addressing you lucky folks in Michigan or Maine who have emailed me, la-de-daaing about how the blueberries there grow in great wild riotous messes in the woods where you live. You folks that have special buckets for collecting blueberries. Plop, plop, plop, go the blueberries into your pails and your teeth get stained blue because you can eat so many as you are picking.
You lucky ones who fill the extra freezer in the garage with blueberries, the way we fill ours with sliced rhubarb or apple pie filling. No. I’m excusing you from this conversation. You won’t get it, no offense intended.
Gentle Readers. You know that I put a definite crack in that puzzling matter of how to grow blueberries here in Nebraska. It’s true. I have a small blueberry patch, and I do get blueberries from it every summer. But. That doesn’t mean that it’s an easy thing to accomplish. Oh, no. Just click over here to my how-to-grow-blueberries and check out the instructions. Not easy, and quite time-consuming to boot. Possible? Yes. Worth all the trouble? I’m still pondering on that one.
Perhaps not if there’s a suitable substitute that’s easier to grow, in my book.
Here’s the dirty little secret, that only you will now know: As I fuss over my blueberry bushes (they need lots of water, constant weeding, generous applications of fertilizer and even sweet songs sung in their invisible ears, in order to be happy here in my Midwestern soil, it’s the truth) oftentimes I wonder why I didn’t listen to my dad (are you reading this, Dad?) and been happy with something fruitful that grows like a weed here in Nebraska. Elderberries grow like weeds, for example, though they are prone to winterkill. Raspberries grow like weeds, for pete’s sake. And they are scrumptious.
And aronia berry bushes–apparently–grow like weeds, too. Why didn’t somebody tell me about aronia berry bushes?
That doesn’t mean I don’t pamper my blueberry bushes, you know. I still hold on to my dream of having enough blueberries one day to put several bags full of them into the freezer. Plus, I have photos of my darling granddaughter picking them, when she was a toddler. I still love blueberries and aspire to grow them.
Wouldn’t you, if this picture was permanently in your memory?
So. Why all this fuss about aronia berries, Amy? Blueberries are tasty and super-nutritious, that much is commonly known.
But check this out: raw organic aronia berries have over 3 times the antioxidants of blueberries. Studies also show that organic aronia berries help regulate blood sugar, reduce blood pressure and reduce cholesterol, among many other benefits. They are anti-viral, anti-diabetic, and anti-bacterial. Just check out this article if you want to learn more. There are great reasons why aronia berriess are lauded as a super food.
The kids and I were given permission to pick from a couple of very large and berry-burdened aronia bushes in a rather public place, and we picked on a couple different occasions this week. The berries are very easy to pick, since they hang in fat clumps, and they stay fresh in the refrigerator for a week or two. They freeze well. They are naturally resistant to insects, so they are easy to raise organically.
A good-sized bush produces lots of berries.
The deep purple color of Aronia berries has actually attracted a lot of attention from scientific types. Purple fruits by virtue of their color are rich in the category of antioxidants known as anthocyanins. These pigments demonstrate potent cell-protective properties, and are also anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce systemic inflammation, which is a key factor in the development of chronic disease. If you’re having any health problems today, part of the problem is probably inflammation. Aronia berries, and other deep-purple fruits, are anti-inflammatory.
You can see why I’m a bit infatuated.
Of course when it comes to the taste . . . it’s a bit difficult to describe it . . .
I will say that I can see why passersby weren’t snatching clumps of these berries and tossing them into their mouths, and grinning through blue-stained teeth. Well, honestly, we saw one guy do just that, and then spit them out afterwards. We were snacking on them the entire time, though. He was probably expecting something sweet. They aren’t unpleasant-tasting, but they aren’t sweet at all, so the temptation to snack on them is not powerful.
But. They are just dandy in muffins and scones and really, really delicious (and beautiful!) in a lunchtime smoothie, and when you combine the knowledge of how excellent they are nutritionally with how versatile they are in the kitchen, well, howdy! There’s no question about it. You’ve just got to try ’em.
I’ve got a simple scone recipe for you today: Aronia cream scones. The next time I write about aronia berries, I’ll tell you about the smoothies I made for lunch today.
But that will have to be on another day, probably next week.
I sprinkled a bit of sugar on the berries before adding them to the scone dough, to add a bit of sweetness to them.
I like irregular shapes, plus it gives me the opportunity to review triangle types with Mack: right triangles, equilateral triangles, isosceles, scalene, obtuse triangles . . . acute triangles . . .
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup unbleached white flour
- ¼ cup sugar, + more for sprinkling on top
- 1 T baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- 6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1.5 cups fresh or frozen aronia berries (or blueberries)
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- ⅓ cup cream or half and half, plus more for tops
- 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- Cut in butter until it is pea-sized.
- Stir in berries and zest.
- Whisk together cream and eggs.
- Add to dry ingredients, stirring in by hand until well incorporated.
- Turn out onto floured board, knead just a bit and pat into 1" thick.
- Cut into wedges and place on cookie sheet.
- Brush tops with more cream and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes and transfer to wire rack for cooling.
- If desired, drizzle a glaze on top, made of confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, and cream.
Yum, yum . . . these scones pictured below (no lie) got a little overbaked, because I was outside watching my Icelandic chicks, so yours will probably be nicer-looking than these. Stay on task!
Come back next week and snatch up my recipe for aronia berry smoothies . . . and the next week? Who knows? As long as the aronia berries hold out, I might do something crazy, like make jam! You probably want to enter your email in the little handy box above, to the right, so you don’t miss a thing, right?
Of course, right.
Oh! Also: thank you all for your support of my elderberry giveaway from Mountain Rose Herbs. I still have a bagful of elderberries to make into winter tonic in my ‘fridge. How about you? I had a lot of entries and lots of sharing going on, which was really awesome and so exciting for me. I picked a winner randomly from the entries and that winner is . . . Lesa L.! I’ve contacted her and she’ll be receiving dried elderberries in the mail sometime soon. Thanks for all of you who entered and shared the entry. I wish I could send you all some dried elderberries, honestly, I do!
Thanks for reading, guys!
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