A new nutritional powerhouse has hit grocery store shelves nationwide — just maybe not in the aisle you’d expect. We found the aronia berry — a tart, purplish-black fruit about the size of a pea — in none other than the baby food section.
We were intrigued when Beech-Nut, whose latest line contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, told us about their new flavor — and rightfully so. According to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, the berry has one of the highest antioxidant values ever recorded for a fruit, beating out the blueberry, the goji berry, and my personal favorite, the acai berry.
But we were hesitant to try it — it was still baby food, after all. Will it taste like mush? Will we regret being the guinea pigs? We soon realized our wariness was unwarranted. In fact, we had to resist dipping our spoons in for more. With apples and aronia berries as the only two ingredients, this isn’t your average baby food.
“Beech-Nut is real food for babies but children and adults can enjoy it too,” said Holley Grainger, MS, RD, and Mom Ambassador for Beech-Nut. “I love to play around with the various purees in the Beech-Nut line like Apple and Aronia Berry to find fun ways to incorporate them into recipes. I think this particular flavor would taste great stirred into yogurt or blended into a smoothie.”
With the whole family onboard, the tiny berry could prove to make a world of difference. Research has shown that aronia berry consumption may help protect cells from free radical damage, reduce blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, and increase energy levels. As companies continue to incorporate superfoods with these types of health benefits into their products, the aronia berry is making its way into the spotlight.
"The popularity of aronia berries has really grown over the last few years, especially as thousands of new shrubs are being planted in the Midwest,” Grainger shared. “Farmers in Iowa have even gone on record saying that they hope people start to associate aronia berries with Iowa the way peaches are associated with Georgia.”
Although you can also find the aronia berry in jams, pies, and juices, we were interested in what we could make out of the baby food puree. Below is our recipe for chewy, nutty, super-fruit packed granola bars, which uses the aronia berry puree in place of oil as a binding ingredient. Enjoy!
Aronia Berry Granola BarsIngredients:1/4 cup honey1 cup Beech-Nut Just Apple & Aronia Berry puree, or two 4.25 oz jars1 tsp. ground cinnamon1 tsp. vanilla extract2 1/2 cups rolled oats1/3 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds2/3 cup roasted, unsalted almonds1 cup dried, pitted dates
Yield: 12 barsServing size: 1 bar
Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Step 2: Whisk together the honey, Beech-Nut puree, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in the oats and mix until evenly coated.
Step 3: Toast sunflower seeds in a dry pan on medium heat until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, pulse the almonds and dates in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
Step 4: Add the toasted sunflower seeds and the chopped almonds and dates to the oat mixture; mix well. At this point, the mixture will have a vibrant purple hue, but it will lose a bit of this color in the oven.
Step 5: Press the mixture into an 8x8 inch baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, then place in the freezer until firm. After about an hour, cut into bars and enjoy! Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.