When they first form in early June, the small green berries are clustered on upright branches decorated by glossy leaves that dance in the breeze and glisten in the rain. As they swell toward harvest, though, the now purple berries’ weight bends each branch toward the ground, distorting the bush’s natural silhouette.
We hurried this week to pick them after we spied telltale bird stains on the sidewalk, and Kevin startled an inquisitive robin swooping by for a quick nibble.
The catalog description for the aronias — an improved and renamed choke cherry — lists production at maturity at a whopping 27 pounds of berries per bush. Now that ours are nearing their benchmark height of 5 feet, I can finally give that seemingly incredible number some credence.
We pulled nearly 50 pounds from just two bushes!
In two hours, we ended up with one dishtub and three stockpots filled to the brim.
Most, we’ll turn into tart, antioxidant-rich juice that blends like a dream with seltzer or apple juice. Some of that resultant juice, we’ll mix with black raspberry and black currant juices and simmer until thick for a wildly delicious base for ice cream.
Finally, we’ll reserve and freeze a few quarts of whole berries for our signature goose-aroni-ant pies (part gooseberries, part aronia berries and part black currant).
It takes a bit of added sugar to make any of these products palatable, but once that sweet spot is reached, it’s a delectable taste experience — like nothing either of us has had before. If blueberries were a melody, aronias are the full symphony.
The multi-layered, nuanced flavor is intoxicating.
Have I mentioned how much I love these berries?