Aronia plants (sometimes known as chokeberry plants) are indigenous to North America and a member of the rose family. For centuries, aronia berries have been used by native American Indians as a medicinal food. Steve’s medical training and 35 years of researching and working in nutrition has led him to an understanding of the critical importance of polyphenols in human health and vitality. When he discovered that aronia berries contain the highest levels of polyphenols of any plant or vegetable, he began to grow some from seed. His initial trials showed that the plants grow extremely well at Derry Duff and so the aronia project began.
The plants have deep roots and grow well in a wide range of soil acidity levels (optimally pH 5-8), tolerate drought and even some water logging, are hardy and wind resistant. In contrast to blueberries that are relatively difficult to grow and sensitive to weed competition, once established, aronia plants require very little care. The plants are extremely well suited to commercial production, as they require little fertilisation and their high polyphenol content makes them very disease resistant. This is because polyphenols form a major element of a plants immune system, protecting them from disease and environmental damage (and when consumed by humans can do the same). The berries all ripen at once and are thick skinned and robust making them suitable for mechanical harvesting, using relatively low cost equipment. Healthy, environmentally sustainable, easy to grow and economically productive – what’s not to like?!
There is a robust and ever increasing body of scientific research, demonstrating that polyphenols in general and aronia in particular, have profound benefits on human health, vitality and longevity. These benefits come from four distinct but inter related mechanisms; their ability to improve glucose metabolism; their positive effects on the microbiome; their anti-inflammatory properties; and their antioxidant power. Research shows they can prevent metabolic syndrome; the combination of central obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or pre-diabetes and deranged blood fats; the greatest source of chronic ill health in Ireland and the developed world. For more details on their health giving properties, visit our Phyterberry site here.
To make the aronia berries profitable, we needed to develop a high value route to market. To do this, we developed the Phyterberry brand and started to market a range of aronia based products. We are now selling several different organic aronia juices, as well as powders and capsules. We are undertaking research with Teagasc, Limerick Institute of Technology and University College Cork to develop further organic aronia products and test their efficacy. Already the sales of Phyterberry products are hugely exceeding our ability to grow sufficient berries on our farm and we are actively searching for other farmers who are interested in growing this new and innovative crop.
Our berries are currently all used to create Phyterberry products, which can be purchased at health food shops around Ireland or online by clicking on the Phyterberry button below. At Derry Duff, we sell organic aronia plants, both as potted plants, in four and ten litre pots and between October to March, bare rooted two or three year old seedlings. For farmers interested in starting to grow aronia, we can source large quantities of organic bare-rooted aronia plants. When they start to produce we can arrange purchase of the berries, through Phyterberry.
Cuibín, Derry Duff, Bantry, Co. Cork, P75 PD60, Ireland | +353 87 8540586