[NAFEX] Aronia paradox

Jim Fruth jfruth at tds.net
Sat Dec 20 12:30:29 EST 2008

Anthony Curcio wrote, "I tried to follow the Aronia Topic yet I may have 
missed an e-mail. Do you have a summary of what you found as the best 
tasting or what you are going to try next?"

    Because we (Brambleberry Farm) make nearly 40 different kinds of jams, 
jellies and syrups, a new fruit variety has to taste phenomenally good 
before we add it to our line.  Aronia was not one of them.  It didn't sell. 
Most of our customers never heard of it and Minnesotans won't buy the 
unfamiliar unless introduced to it and it tastes really delicious.  My wife, 
Esther, makes the jelly (I make the syrups [3,000 bottles in 2008] plus grow 
and harvest most of the fruit we use).  Esther made over 25,000 jars of 
jelly this year and she tastes every batch.  Aronia jelly was chopped from 
the list.
    As I mentioned in an earlier post, the plants were in the way so I 
grubbed them out and sold them to someone.  They were  named varieties.  The 
fruit was tasty but not all that good, nothing I'd walk across the street 
for.  After those plants were gone, I began encountering papers written 
about it, how healthy the berries are.  There are people who make/sell 
Aronia Juice.  I also learned that a common name for them is "Chokeberry" 
and that it is used for coloring other jellies.  So I ordered three times as 
many plants that I had before, wild plants this time, from the New Hampshire 
Department of Conservation.  We have a Ukrainian immigrant who works for us 
and she got really excited when she saw the plants (and fruit).  She 
remembered eating it in Russia where they call it "Rabinia" (requires a 
tongue roll on the RRRRRR).
    Diabetic customers keep begging for more sugar-free jelly varieties and 
Choke"cherry" is frequently asked for.  Last year I picked 650 pounds of 
chokecherries for jelly and syrup and we ran out before the 2008 crop 
ripened so, this year, I picked 802 lbs., but an extra 150 lbs. isn't enough 
to also use it in sugar-free so Esther and I toyed with the idea of 
"Sugar-Free Chokeberry."  The first harvest of the new planting was in 2008.
    Now for the paradox:  As mentioned earlier, our new Aronia fruit is 
nearly tasteless when eaten fresh but, before I made the decision to 
eradicate the patch, I figured I'd cook up a small batch to see if it would 
be worthy enough to use it for coloring.  Much to my surprise, the syrup I 
made from it tastes FANTASTIC!!!  When I gave Esther a taste of it, she 
immediately made plans to add it to the jelly line and "Sugar-Free 
Chokeberry" has even been added to the wholesale list.  The paradox 
is...................the named varieties were nicely edible when eaten fresh 
but made a mediocre tasting jelly while the wild fruit is nearly tasteless 
fresh but has a wonderful flavor when cooked.  Now I wonder if I planted 
enough of them.

Jim Fruth
Brambleberry Farm
Pequot Lakes, MN  56472
For jams, jellies, syrups & Christmas Gift Baskets:
(877)265-6856 [Store]
(218)831-7018 [My Cell]

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