June 6, 2013

Aronia berry 'super food' planted at Edmundson Park

The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — There’s a “super food” growing at Edmundson Park.

Family farmer Andrew Pittz planted an aronia berry bush at Edmundson Park Tuesday afternoon. The aronia berry is a high-antioxidant berry. Pittz said the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the aronia berry has three times the anti-oxidants of a blueberry and double the amount of anti-oxidants in the Brazilian acai berry.

Pittz stopped in Oskaloosa Tuesday as part of a 99-county tour of the state to plant one bush in each county. The tour is affiliated with the Healthiest State Initiative, Hy-Vee and the Pittz family farm — Sawmill Hollow Family Farm of Missouri Valley.

“It’s a dark, pigmented berry when it grows up,” Pittz said.

The aronia berry produces a few berries in three years and the bush reaches maturation in five years, he said.

Pittz said each aronia berry bush he plants can trace its lineage back to one of the original 207 bushes planted on his family’s farm. Sawmill Hollow is the first farm to cultivate the aronia berry commercially in North America. They planted their first bushes in 1995, by 1997 the plants were growing well and the farm had its first aronia berry food line in the early 2000s, he added.

“This is a really unique opportunity for Iowa to lead,” Pittz said.

Gov. Terry Branstad has declared September to be Aronia Berry Month, Pittz said.

After planting the bush in Oskaloosa, Pittz said he had three more stops to make Tuesday: Ottumwa, Albia and Chariton.

“Our goal is to wrap it up on June 28,” he said. “It’s my birthday,” he added.

Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at oskynews@oskyherald.com