Styria is one of Europe’s largest producers of elderberries and chokeberries. These distinctive black fruits flourish particularly well in Southeast Styria.
All year round we look forward to local superfoods made using elderberries and chokeberries. Delicious dishes are conjured up from the fresh blossoms, while in winter there are jams, chutneys, schnapps and syrups to relish.
The tiny blossoms are yellow-white and have a sweet, characteristic fragrance; ripe berries gleam black and contain three brownish seeds: that’s elderberry. New research indicates that it boasts a variety of medical properties, in particular anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects. Studies have shown that elderberries are packed with over 4,000 biophenol (antioxidant) compounds.
In Styria, elderberries have enjoyed a long tradition; it is here that they were rediscovered as a foodstuff and as a remedy. Southeast Styria has proven itself to be an excellent growing area. Investigations have revealed that in this particular area, the black elderberry (sambucus nigra) contains a particularly high number of beneficial substances. One reason for this could be the volcanic soil. Today, the elderberry is second only to the apple in fruit-growing.
Energy drink: Holler Vulkan
“Doff your cap to the elderberry” went the old saying, and now scientific studies have confirmed that our ancestors were right to treat every elderberry bush with such veneration: the thick, dark juice is incredibly healthy. A number of farmers located near Sankt Anna am Aigen (lots of elder grow especially in southeastern Styria) have joined forces to produce the “Holler Vulkan” drink, a delicious blend of elderberry, apple, redcurrant, blackcurrant and chokeberry juice. Delicious, and with an unrivalled antioxidant content.
The chokeberry, also called aronia, should be held up as a model example of successful crop integration. Originally from North America, the bush was first used for fruit-growing in Russia in the early 20th century. The delicately bitter flavour of the small, dark purple, almost black, berries and the astonishing power of the substances they contain sent its popularity soaring.
Today, these power berries are grown by over 40 businesses across some 300 hectares, making Southeast and East Styria as well as the Thermen- & Vulkanland the largest growing area in Central Europe.
From harvest to plate
The aronia shrub is a very robust, hardy plant. It can withstand temperatures of up to -30 degrees Celsius. It grows uncomplainingly on any type of soil, but prefers a mix of sandy/loam soils. Waterlogging should be avoided at all costs. And it should be planted preferably in a sunny spot. Dark-purple, apple-shaped fruits with a diameter of 5-12 mm ripen on the aronia bush until the end of August. They can then be harvested either by hand or by machine. The berries can be eaten raw, but this is not especially recommended.
Aronia can be prepared in many ways: as a juice, as dried fruit in muesli, as tea, in powdered form as a nutritional supplement, in jams, as an aperitif, in soups, etc. A suggested daily intake is 100 ml of aronia juice per day, preferably in the morning to pep you up or before sport. Chokeberries are rich in vitamins and minerals, and have an anti-inflammatory and metabolism-stimulating effect.