Chokecherry vs Chokeberry [+Are These Berries Safe to Eat, or Not?]

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Chokecherry vs chokeberry! What’s the difference?

By some cruel (and confusing) twist of fate, we have two similar plants – with nearly identical names! One of these bears edible fruits, while the other can cause toxicity or even death in your farm animals.

So – choose carefully!

Ripe chokecherries growing on the tree branch.

If you’re a foraging fan, you’ll want to make sure you get the correct berries. So, here is our quick guide to chokecherry vs chokeberry.

Chokeberries – The Complete Guide

ripe chokeberry branch growing thick leaves
Here you can see black chokeberries growing in the wild. Chokeberries are indigenous to Minnesota and are also cold-hardy. The fruit persists into the winter – perfect for late-season foragers. (And wildlife!)

Of the two plants we are comparing today, the chokeberry is the one that bears edible fruit. Unfortunately, the names are so similar that it can be tricky to remember which is which!

The easiest way I find is to think of the chokeberry as a choke-belly – which is where we want them to end up!

Are Aronia Berry and Chokeberry the Same?

Yes! The deciduous shrub of the Rosaceae family, which bears chokeberries, is called Aronia melanocarpa. You may also hear chokeberries referred to as Aronia berries or black chokeberries. In other words – Aronia berries are chokeberries – and they grow on the Aronia melanocarpa plant. They’re the same berry!

How to Identify a Chokeberry?

Chokeberry bush branch with dark berries under the bright sun.
Here are some ripe chokeberries growing on the branch. The berries appear dark purple or dark blue.

Chokeberries are small purple berries about the size of a pea. Each berry grows on its stem, clustered together in groups. The groups are around 2 – 20 chokeberries. The bush itself is thornless, and the leaves point with a serrated edge. At harvest time, the leaves will be turning a golden red color. Chokeberry shrubs are famous for enduring well into winter and for offering forage for birds and other animals.

If you are unsure if you have a chokeberry or chokecherry, the easiest way to find out is to crush one of the berries. The edible one – the Aronia berry – will have several tiny seeds inside. Chokecherries, on the other hand, have a single pit. Just like plums and cherries!

Read More – Can You Grow Raspberries and Blackberries Together?

Why Is It Called Chokeberry?

Chokeberries might be edible, but that doesn’t mean that they taste good! Chokeberries are very dry and astringent and do not taste good in their raw state. Usually – they’re used to make jams, syrups, pies, and baked goods. Making jam is one of the best ways to preserve your chokeberry fruit over the long winter months. Chokeberry and wild fruit jam taste heavenly spread on homemade bread, toast, pancakes, or waffles. Don’t forget a dash of butter!

Are Chokeberries Poisonous to Humans?

Chokeberries are not poisonous to humans, and they’re one of my favorite superfoods! They contain high levels of Anthocyanins, an antioxidant compound most famously found in blueberries.

Chokecherries – Everything You Need to Know!

prunus virginiana chokecherry ripe berries
Here’s a breathtaking sample of a red and ripe chokecherry prunus virginiana. Chokecherries are deciduous and have an excellent reputation for surviving many soil types and pH levels.

Chokecherry is the common name for a plant known as prunus virginiana. This wild-growing bush comes from the same family as other stone fruits, such as plums and cherries.

How Can You Tell a Chokecherry from a Chokeberry?

Chokecherries are reddish-purple and resemble a tremendously small cherry. Unlike chokeberries, chokecherry fruits grow in clusters. They usually drop from the plant by mid-fall, whereas you will still find chokeberry fruits on Aronia bushes in mid-winter. When crushed, the chokecherry fruit contains just a single stone. The stone is the easiest way to compare chokecherries to chokeberries. Chokeberries contain multiple tiny seeds. (Around 3-5 seeds.)

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Are Chokecherries Toxic to Horses and Cattle?

Yes! Absolutely! Chokecherry seeds and leaves contain cyanide and are highly toxic and sometimes fatal to horses. Your herd animals, cattle, and especially horses should avoid chokecherries at all costs. The cyanide found in chokecherries makes it so your horse cannot breathe or process oxygen. Sadly, your horse may suddenly die only minutes or hours after consuming a large number of chokecherries – or leaves.

Are Chokecherries Edible for Humans?

Parts of chokecherries may cause toxicity in humans! The stems, leaves, and buds contain cyanide. Wilted chokecherry leaves are especially famous for high toxicity. We suggest you do not eat them. Whether black chokecherries are edible seems to be a matter of some controversy! We are sure that the chokecherry stone (pit) is not edible. It contains highly toxic hydrocyanic acid.

Some foragers suggest that you can eat the pit if it has been cooked or dried, but, quite honestly, we suggest you do not take the risk!

Read More – 7 DIY Strawberry Planter Ideas!

Can You Eat Chokecherry Fruit?

Cooked chokecherry fruit is safe for humans – and is best when they are very ripe. Otherwise, they’re tremendously bitter. You must remove the pit before eating the chokecherry. These tiny berries are very astringent and need plenty of sugar to bring out the flavor. For this reason, they are perfect in puddings, jams, and compotes. Remember to cook the fruit – and never eat the pits.

What Are the Benefits of Chokecherry?

They taste great in jams and on toast! We also believe that chokecherries may also contain antioxidants, although further research is required to validate this. Like all berries, they are a good source of Vitamin C, and we also believe that they may have health benefits for gastrointestinal disorders.

Are Chokecherries Poisonous to Dogs?

Yes. Absolutely! The toxins in chokecherry plants are poisonous to dogs, cats, cattle, and other animals. So, if you have one of those dogs who like to eat anything, keep him away from wild chokecherry bushes! Luckily, the bitter taste of chokecherries means that most dogs will not consume them in large enough quantities to cause poisoning.

Also – the cyanide in chokecherries concentrates around the leaves and the buds. We don’t believe your dog is likely to consume many chokecherry leaves. That’s why horses, cattle, goats, and grazing animals are at higher risk of chokecherry poisoning.

Chokecherry Jam And Syrup Recipes

We’ve searched for the best chokecherry jam and jelly recipes. We found a few that you might like.

1. Chokecherry Syrup Recipe And Jelly Recipe

We found two yummy recipes on the University of Minnesota Extension website. One is for a super-sweet chokecherry jelly, and the other is for chokecherry syrup. (Perfect for homemade pancakes and waffles!)

Read the chokecherry syrup and jelly recipes here. 

2. Classic Chokecherry Jelly

Here’s another classic chokecherry jelly recipe we found on the South Dakota State University’s website. They also share some helpful canning tips to help preserve your jelly.

Grab their classic chokecherry recipe here.

3. Homemade Jam Using Wild Fruit

Here’s a fun collection of wild fruit jellies you can make at home. You’ll also find recipes using other wild fruits, like buffalo berries and ground cherries.

Check out the wild fruit jelly recipes here.


If you’ve ever read Into the Wild, then you realize that choosing the wrong forage to eat is a deadly mistake!

That’s why we always advise that you tread carefully, double, and triple check.

Luckily – chokeberries and chokecherries are easy to recognize.

  • Look for the chokeberries dark-purple color – and they belong in your belly. Remember that they contain several (around 3-5) seeds. They also taste great on waffles, and on toast!
  • Chokecherries are lighter – and contain a single pit. Try to avoid chokecherries – they are toxic for horses, farm animals, and cattle!

We thank you for reading this guide.

If you have more tips for distinguishing between chokeberries vs. chokecherries – please let us know.

Your tips could help a fellow homesteader, or an animal!

Thanks again for reading.

Have a great day!

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05/09/2024 01:45 pm GMT

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