MT. MORRIS – Elizabeth and Jarek Sinila of Chicago were all smiles Sunday as they carried their big bin of aronia berries up the hill at the BerryView Orchard, northwest of Mt. Morris on Sunday, Sept. 17.
“This is the first time we’ve been here,” said Elizabeth as she and Jarek took a break while carrying half of their cache to the sorting table. “We’re from Poland and there, these berries are very famous.”
The couple and a friend made the 2-hour trip from their home despite a forecast of rain.
“It was raining at home, but we checked and it said it was not raining here,” said Elizabeth pointing at the somewhat sunny day. “And it wasn’t. When we found out they had aronia berries here we said ‘let’s go, we’re coming’.”
The trio picked berries for about 2 hours, Elizabeth said, filling two large totes with the dark purple berries known for their astringent flavor and health benefits.
The berries can be eaten fresh, on salads, blended into smoothies, or mixed with other fruits in jellies, baked goods, yogurt, sorbet or juice blends. The fruit is noted for being high in antioxidants and other various health benefits.
“I’ve known them for years,” said Elizabeth, referring to the berries. “They are very good fo you. We will share these with our daughter. I plan to make jam or juice with mine.”
Jeff and Julie Warren, owners of BerryView, 7504 W. Midtown Road, northwest of Mt. Morris, have been raising aronia berries since 2010 as a complement to their apple and pear trees at their family owned and operated orchard.
Apple and berry picking were just two of the activities at BerryView on Sunday. The Summerhill Huskies 4-H Club also offered a petting zoo in the morning and, of course, the orchard had its popular cider donuts for sale.
Linsey McDanel of Freeport and her family were also making their first trip the orchard. “This is so cool,” said McDanel as she and her kids picked apples.
BerryView will be part of the annual Back Roads Market featuring several local venues on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Other stops at the Back Roads Market include: Vintage Chicks & Feed 700 E. IL. Rt 2, Leaf River; Funky Junk Vendors, 6410 W. Grove Road, Mt Morris; and Hough’s Maple Lane Farm, 3788 N. Mt. Morris Road.
Visit BerryView Orchard on Facebook or call 815-440-5159 for more information.
What is Aronia?
According to information from the Midwest Aronia Association, aronia, also known as black chokeberry (not to be confused with choke cherry), is a deciduous shrub native to North America.
Harvested in late summer, the dark purple berries are juicy with an astringent flavor.
The berries can be eaten fresh, on salads, or blended into smoothies.
Frozen aronia berries, or juice pressed from them, can be substituted for other fruits in baked goods, jellies, yogurt, sorbet or juice blends.
Other uses include tea, syrup, salsa, spreads and as natural food coloring.
The berries are high in antioxidants and offer many health benefits.