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Red Chokeberries, known botanically as Aronia Arbutifolia, are glossy red berries native to Eastern Canada and Northern America.
They’re found on shrub-like vegetation that can grow up to 12 feet (3.66 meters) in height (source). As appealing as berries may look, you should hold off on eating them raw without knowing whether or not they’re safe for consumption.
Red Chokeberries are edible, although they may not taste good when consumed raw because of their astringent flavor. Seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide and should be removed from the fruit before consumption.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about red chokeberries and their edibility. I’ll also share with you some clever ways to include these naturally bitter berries in creative recipes.
Chokeberry Seeds Have Cyanide
Before eating chokeberries, you should remove the seeds from the fruit. This can be a bit of a hassle, as this berry contains multiple seeds. However, the seeds contain cyanide – Yup, that’s the same substance found in apple seeds and featured in your favorite murder mysteries.
Fortunately, chokeberry seeds contain only minuscule quantities of cyanide.
Even if you eat a handful of red chokeberries without removing the seeds, you’ll probably be fine. Don’t hold back if you encounter some while in the wild and want a quick snack. I should stress, though, that you must be able to recognize a wild berry accurately before eating it.
Even though the chokeberry is safe, a deadly lookalike could leave an unsuspecting consumer poisoned and too far away from medical assistance.
On the other hand, there have been no reported cases of cyanide poisoning due to chokeberry consumption, and these berries have been safely consumed for centuries from American natives of the past to foragers and hikers today.
Red Chokeberries Are Safe To Consume
If you’re looking to try these berries for yourself, the good news is that they’re totally safe to eat. I do recommend removing the seeds just to be safe.
The bad news is that these berries don’t have the most palatable taste. Chokeberries were so named because they dry up your mouth quickly, leaving you with an unpleasant, dry throat – something you might associate with a choking sensation.
Their intense, bitter taste is definitely something you’ll have to get used to before you can enjoy red chokeberries raw – you can think of it as an acquired taste.
Pro-tip: When chokeberries are allowed more time to ripen, they are sweeter and tastier. If you’re sourcing red chokeberries from your own garden, consider waiting until later during the blooming season to harvest the fruits.
Using Chokeberries in Basic Recipes
Here are some creative ways to use them in everyday recipes.
- Since these berries cause your mouth to dry out, they make the perfect complement to liquid food snacks, such as milkshakes and smoothies. You can add chokeberries directly into the blender or use them as toppings.
- You can combine red chokeberries with other, sweeter fruits, such as oranges, pineapples, and strawberries, to create delicious juice. Sweet fruits will help to disguise the bitter flavor.
- Aronia berries also go well with tea, wine, and coffee.
- A popular commercially available product, red chokeberries are often turned into jam and jelly because of their high pectin content. You can even make your own jam at home with the help of an online guide.
- Red chokeberries are excellent toppings for cereal. Top off your oatmeal with these berries, add some more fruits and nuts, and use honey as a sweetener for a healthy breakfast.
- You can even incorporate Aronia berries into baked goods – cookies, cupcakes, pies, nothing’s off the table. You’re only limited by your creativity.
Are Red Chokeberries Toxic to Animals?
Red chokeberries themselves are not toxic to animals (although you should still remove the seeds because of the cyanide).
However, the shrubs that they grow on are toxic to your pets. As long as you keep them away from the plant foliage, they will be fine.
Always consult a veterinarian if you see signs of distress, such as difficulty breathing and prolonged lethargy.
Red Chokeberries, scientifically named Aronia Arbutifolia, are safe for consumption by humans. Their seeds have meager amounts of cyanide, but it’s usually not enough to cause any meaningful harm. You would have to eat dozens of these berries to feel ill.
Still, I recommend taking out the seeds before consumption, just to be safe.
On the plus side, Aronia berries have tons of antioxidants (source). You can utilize these nutrient-rich berries in shakes, smoothies, cereal, and baked items.
The shrubs that produce these berries may be toxic to plants, so keep your pets away.
Many people confuse these berries with Chokecherries. It may be helpful to read our guide Chokeberry vs. Chokecherry: 7 Key Differences.