A visit to Aronia Swiss in Benzenschwil, AG
The aronia berry extract that we use for our BIO-Edelweiss & BIO-Aroniabeere body care line comes from the Heggli family's organic farm in Benzenschwil, Aargau. The family has specialised in the cultivation, processing and sale of aronia (chokeberries) since 2013.
In August 2020, we had the opportunity to visit the organic farm in person.
The Heggli family didn't have an entirely easy start. After all, the aronia market is still a niche in Switzerland, so that know-how was lacking to some extent initially. The beginning was a matter of experimentation and steady optimisation to keep the useful insects and pests in balance, until the Heggli family had found their ideal method of agriculture.
The family now grows aronia on 16 hectares of land and its members mostly take care of the plantation themselves; weeding is on the agenda here as on any farm. The further processing of the berries, likewise all administration and sales, is also in the family's hands. They have the help of an immigrant worker only for three months at harvest time. Because all the work is done directly on their farm, the Heggli family can have a direct influence on quality. Their organic aronia berries not only have the well-known health benefits but also are very flavoursome.
We are looking at the berries before they are harvested. They have a white coating at the moment. However, Mr Heggli tells us that this is just lime. It's needed because of the spotted wing drosophila, or SWD, a Japanese pest which has been found in Switzerland for about the past 10 years. It seems that it goes for all dark red berries, even when they're not yet ripe. The SWD lays its eggs in the berry, making it inedible. Water mixed with slaked lime has a high pH and disinfects the aronia leaves: It prevents the formation of yeast, which the SWD needs and likes. They do not use any spray apart from natural lime. The Heggli family goes for purely organic methods; insecticides, he says, would only disturb the natural equilibrium unnecessarily, and the aronia, originally a wild plant, was very robust in any case.
The berries are picked mechanically with a berry harvester. Two people at the back of the unit then remove any insects, slugs and snails.
After that, the freshly picked aronia berries are deep-frozen immediately at -25°C in the blast freezer. They then go to the deep-freeze warehouse. That way, they can be processed all year round. The deep-frozen aronia will easily keep for two years.
For further processing, the berries are washed, picked over again by hand and checked.
The extract for our BIO-Edelweiss – BIO-Aroniabeere body care line is obtained from aronia pomace, a high-quality by-product of juicing which contains a high concentration of especially healthy polyphenols.
Find more information about Aronia-Swiss and all the Heggli family's high-quality products (in German and French) at: www.aronia-swiss.ch