Weekend festival in western Iowa celebrates aronia berry

Ag/Outdoor, News

September 17th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A festival dedicated to a type of berry many Americans haven’t heard of is taking place this weekend in western Iowa. Saw Mill Hollow in Missouri Valley is believed to have the largest aronia berry crop in the country. Andrew Pittz says his father, Vaughn, first heard about aronia berries being used in a juice drink.  “We looked into it and it was a native North American plant that no one was growing,” Pittz said. “So, we took it upon ourselves to plant the first 207 cultivated aronia berry plants in the United States.” That was 1995. Today, the Pittz family manages 25 acres of aronia berries. The dark colored berry has long been popular in Russia and Poland. Pittz says sales are picking up in the U.S. among those searching for healthier food products.

He notes studies have shown the aronia berry contains two to four times the antioxidants of a blueberry. “And the blueberry is kind of the go to super fruit,” Pittz said. Aronia berries have a unique tart taste, lacking the sweetness of grapes and blueberries. Pittz admits aronia berries probably aren’t best in the raw.  “It might not be as good – eating it fresh – as a grape, blueberry or raspberry. But, because of its profile, it makes a great wine and it bakes really well. There are all kinds of things you can do with it,” Pittz said. The 4th Annual North American Aronia Berry Festival is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both today (Saturday) and Sunday.

learn more about the event at: www.sawmillhollow.com.

(Radio Iowa)