Blending Eastern European and U.S. Culture


Iva Rasich came to Albany Park from Croatia three years ago. Aronia was little-known when her father planted it and her mother developed flyers with recipes.

“Today most people know about it, including people with health conditions, such as diabetes or cancer,” Rasich comments.

She has fall allergies. On the Web she found John Pilcher’s aronia at Coldbrook Farm. The similar size, color and taste in her morning smoothie reminded her of home. Symptoms disappeared.

Friends love her treats, especially the tart aronia banana bread. “My triple berry sauce of aronia, cranberries and blueberries is a Thanksgiving hit,” she remarks.


“As a specialty produce wholesaler,” says Bill Gerlach, research and development director at Melissa’s/World Variety Produce Inc. in Vernon, California, “we take pride in following demographics, identifying emerging trends, and introducing new and niche commodities.” He’s often noticed processed products of aronia berries, most particularly juices, at trade shows Poland and the Balkans.

Robert Schueller, Melissa’s director of public relations, reports distributing dried aronia primarily to health food stores in January, 2014, and fresh three years later.

Greg Lorenowicz is general produce manager at Chicago’s four-store KD Market. “We want to bring authentically Polish home-cooked food to the mainstream,” he says. “Italians have done it. We want periogis, galumpkis and kolaczki beside salads and home-cooked soups.” A special event around aronia food, wine and liqueur is slated for the fall.


Like their European counterparts, some Americans prefer tartness and the health properties of antioxidants in addition to sugar-laden dishes.  Schueller maintains that retailers need to be educated about the fruit and its uses. That takes us back to a Croatian grower, his wife’s helpful flyers, a daughter’s smoothies and sweet-tart dishes, and the side-by-side vision propelling a once all-Polish grocery chain.

(©2018 Passage Media.)



by Mildred L. Culp


  1. Iva Rasich of Albany Park dispels her fall allergies with aronia berries from Coldbrook Farm, which remind her of home.

Credit: Coldbrook Farm, Inc.


  1. Home-made packzi tempts shoppers at four KD Markets in Chicago.

Credit: KD Market

  1. Fresh home-cooked meals at KD Market in Chicago sit beside Polish dishes.

Credit: KD Market


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