Foremost on many minds is the nutritional value of locally grown food.

A free tour of North Ridge Pines farm highlights a little-known nutritious berry that is indigenous to the region.

The aronia plant, from the name Aronia melanocarpa, produces a berry that is used as flavoring in juices and wines. Dan and Jane Christian, who own North Ridge Pines located 3 miles east of Waseca on Old Hwy. 14, have been attempting to popularize aronia in Minnesota.

The berry, also known as the chokeberry, has gained popularity over the past few years, with a 2013 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Processing Center’s Product Traffic Report saying that more than 440 new products containing aronia had been released in the country over the previous five years.

At North Ridge Pines, the berry is used in juice. Dan Christian says that the berry is great for this use.

“It has a lot of potency, so it takes on the flavor of whatever it’s paired with when used in drinks,” Christian said.

Gary Wyatt, extension educator in agroforestry with the University of Minnesota Extension, says that the plant is also useful for area residents because it’s easy to grow in the area.

“It’s a shrub that anyone can grow in their backyard,” Wyatt said. “It’s well-adapted to the Minnesota climate.”

The berries, which were also used by Native Americans for their medicinal qualities, are available to order from North Ridge Pines. The upcoming tour is part of an attempt to popularize the berry and plant. Efforts to do so have resulted in the farm being featured in Minnesota Grown‘s June 2015 Pick of the Month newsletter and Christian says that Farmamerica Director Roger Steinkamp has expressed interest in helping to market the berry. He says that community members have given positive feedback to the largely unknown berry.

“People who have tried the juice have said that it’s great and they don’t know why people don’t know about this berry,” Christian said.

Covering Waseca, Janesville, and New Richland.

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