MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa -- Those with an eye toward healthy living have probably noticed the words "aronia berry" in everything from juices and powdered supplements to baby food.
Midwesterners probably know it as chokeberry, the name European settlers centuries ago gave the berry they found tart, astringent and more pretty than palatable.
The native North American plant is in the midst of a transformation, prized for its exceptional health benefits and easy cultivation. The almost black-purple, pea-sized berry gets its more agreeable name from its genus, Aronia melanocarpa.
Now dubbed a "superfood," research shows the berries packing more antioxidants than blueberries, acai and goji berries. Producers are also taking notice, with thousands of the shrubs being planted by farmers -- mostly in Iowa, but also in other upper Midwest states -- every year.