sawmill hollow family farm
these farmers aim to reintroduce Aronia berries to America! Intrigued? Here's some great coverage from The Atlantic.
Aronia Berries: The Next Acai?
by James McWilliams
The aronia berry is a dark purplish fruit that grows in clusters of 12 on handsome green shrubs. When eaten off the vine it’s bitter—for good reason, many call it a “chokeberry.” But for hardcore devotees the astringency is well worth it. These relatively unknown berries also pack a serious nutritional punch including antioxidant levels that are off the charts. Most consumers, moreover, are likely to soften the blow, consuming aronia berries in the form of jelly, syrup, wine, or even muffins or cookies. I go for the extract, which I put in water three times daily.
However one digests aronia berries, it’s more likely than not that the product came from Eastern Europe, where thousands of acres of perennial aronia bushes are cultivated. The odd thing about this eastern European origin is that aronia berries are actually native to the American Midwest. They grew wild when Europeans explored the area in the sixteenth century, and they continue to grow wild today.
The annual Aronia Festival, held on the farm each September, has become an instant tradition.
But we generally eat the cultivated varieties. The berry left the United States in the early twentieth century, exploded in popularity as Romanians and Bulgarians bred it for higher yield and better taste, and came back to America as a sort of prodigal son, transformed and seeking redemption on home soil, in 1997.
The lone farmer who welcomed the cultivated berry was Vaughn Pittz. Having recently retired from Kraft Foods, Pittz joined his wife, Cindy, in drafting their 11-year-old son, Andrew, to help them plant 207 aronia bushes—a breed called Viking (it was bred in Scandinavia). The family undertook this unprecedented mission in Missouri Valley, Iowa, on a 150-acre stretch of rolling hills they call Sawmill Hollow Organic Farm. It was, as Andrew (now 24), put it, initially conceived by his parents as “a retirement farm.”
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