Aronia Berry the Super Food!!

I don’t know how many of you are aware that we grow Aronia Berries on our front two and a half acres. The short way to sum up Aronia’s is that they are a SUPER FOOD. Their ORAC value or anti-oxidant level is higher than any other food. Plus they have a tremendous amount of other healthy properties which I will list later. This year we have a pretty good crop, we are expecting over 500 pounds so I also want to make you aware that we do sell to the public, as berries in one pound bag for $5.00 or the raw juice for, 46 oz. $20.00. We have many suggestions on what you can do with the berries by themselves, like Aronia berry muffins or Aronia berry Salsa, but the easiest thing to do is throw a cup of them in with your smoothie. Also as the juice, I drink 4oz in the morning and then 4oz in the evening. Now we are not set up for delivery so everything is cash and carry, but then you could also pick up a bag of our homemade granola as well! Or better yet, stay at the Brightwood Inn and relax, then take some home with you!!

As promised here are the other benefits!


Highest levels of antioxidants of any fruit in the world.

Regulates blood pressure levels

Prevents and helps in treatment of Diabetes

Improves Blood circulation and strengthens blood vessels

Helps in urinary tract health

Helps in gastro protective effect

Anti carcinogen effect {Anti cancer properties)

Anti inflammatory properties

Protects your eyes

Helps control weight

Reduces allergy production

Inhibits enzymes that break down collagen

Improves the function of respiratory systems

Protects heart cells from cell membrane damage

Nutrient dense, wide range of vitamins and minerals including

zinc, magnesium, iron, vitamins b, c, and k, and quinic acid.

Things to do in the Winter

Things to do in the winter in the Starved Rock Area.

Sharon has Challenged me to come up with at least 10 things to do in our area during the Winter time. Well, I hear the call and I will answer it! Challenge accepted! So I will scour the area looking for inside and outside activities for our area, hoping to find something for everyone.

  1. Ice Falls at Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks – With the freezing temperatures, the waterfalls at the parks turn even more magical when they freeze over. Different hues of Blue abound inside these falls, that you will see when you get right up to them. Bring your camera, they’re very photogenic! Also you may see trained ice climbers inching their way to the top, but be careful not to get to close if you see them as chunks of ice may fall while they’re doing it. 
  2. Eagle watching at Starved Rock – As the smaller creeks, ponds and other tributaries freeze over, the eagles will flock around the Illinois river in search of food. By the lock and dam across from Starved Rock is one of their favorite hunting grounds. In the trees surrounding the area, you will see the white heads of these majestic birds throughout. Bring your binoculars to get a really good look at them!
  3. Stay at the Brightwood Inn – Yes! Stay at the Brightwood Inn! We have fireplaces, hot tubs, fluffy robes, Hot Coa Coa, books, board games, DVD players. All that is perfect after a nice invigorating hike looking at Frozen Waterfalls and counting Eagles! After all we are “a better way to stay”!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ 
  4. Illinois Waterway Visitor’s center – Get up close and personal with the Impressively large tow boats and see how the locks work that are along the Illinois river. They also have a viewing platform with a telescope for viewing the Bald Eagles.  
  5. LaSalle County Historical Museum – The museum complex is located on the banks of the Illinois & Michigan Canal a few miles south of I-80 on Route 178 in historical Utica, Illinois. The two-story stone museum was built during the presidency of Zachary Taylor in 1848. Originally it was a general store serving the needs of early pioneers and the traffic along the canal. Steeped in tradition, all its natural charm has been preserved by the Society.  
  6. Cross Country Skiing – There are 6 miles of cross-country ski trails with ski rental available weekends from December through March. Alcohol is prohibited on all trails. Call 815-667-4726 to check conditions and status before coming to use these facilities. 
  7. Wine Tasting – Utica has two wineries, each with it’s own tasting room, August Hill winery and Illinois River Winery. Stop buy and sample their hand crafted wines, they are both very good! Also, Utica has a tasting room called Clark’s Run Creek Gifts and Wine Tasting, where you can sample a variety of different vintners, and they also have craft beer. 
  8. Beer Tasting – Ottawa has a micro brew pub called Tangled Roots where they have a plethora of different beers for you to sample at their tasting room. Brewed on site and sometimes in conjunction with neighboring Radium city Brewery (they do not have a tasting room unfortunately) in beautiful copper kettles that you can see through glass walls. You can also go next door to their sister restaurant Lone Buffalo and try the beers with delicious, seasonal and locally sourced food. 
  9. Shopping – Downtown LaSalle, Downtown Utica and Downtown Ottawa all have lovely shops with various interesting wares for you to meander through. There are also antique stores in Utica and Ottawa. Peru has an Antique Mall with LARGE assortment of various antiques. Last time we were there, we spent hours looking at things, it felt like being in a museum! 
  10. Dining – Once again, Downtown LaSalle, Downtown Utica and Downtown Ottawa have great local restaurants for you to choose from. Look them up yourself on-line or ask us for suggestions when you get here. There are too many to list in this little article! 
  11. Mansion tours – LaSalle has the Hegler Carus Mansion where Visitors today experience the grandeur of a bygone era and the heritage of a fascinating family whose history is woven tightly with that of the Illinois Valley. Then Ottawa has the Reddick Mansion. Historically important and architecturally unique, the Reddick Mansion anchors  Washington Square, the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate.  Built in 1855, this lovely 22-room Italianate mansion was possibly the most expensive and ornate private home built in Illinois before the Civil War. 
  12. Horseback Riding – Yes! Horseback riding in the winter! Cedar Creek Ranch is open year round and has many miles of scenic trails for you to ride through. They even have a restaurant called the Gun Smoke Grill for you to warm up afterwards with some good hot food! 
  13. Day Spa – Indulge yourself at one our local day spas. There are many in the area and a wide variety of services. One in particular is called Salt Tree Yoga spa. They have a Himalayan salt cave where you can sit and relax and breath in the salty air, which is suppose to be great for your lungs! 

Well looky there! I came up with 13 different things to do in the area! So there is no reason to sit at home bored when there’s all this stuff to do. So come out! Hike, shop, eat, taste, it’s all here waiting for you! And of course, stay at the Brightwood Inn, where there’s a comfy bed and a fireplace waiting for you! ๐Ÿ˜€

Week days in the Starved Rock area

Well, it was a busy Memorial Day weekend here at the Brightwood Inn and the Starved Rock area in general. Once again they had to halt traffic to the parks because they were too full. The trails were choked with people, trash was over flowing the garbage cans and our guests reported they saw people were carving into the trees off the trails. People were wandering off the trails and one guy fell 40 feet in one of the canyons. It’s reported that he’s in good condition now. Conservation officers handed out 76 tickets. Things were pretty chaotic in the Village of North Utica. It was estimated that there were 96,000 people here over the weekend!! I gotta say, all the good press Starved Rock has been getting has it’s down side. I’ll be honest with you, I try not to leave the property on the weekends so that I don’t have to deal with the chaos.

But, when the week days come, things slow down quite nicely. There is a little more solitude to hiking the trails and it’s so much quieter. You can actually hear the birds, not other peoples conversations. Restaurants are less crowded, traffic is a breeze. The only thing is, once in a great while, you might get stuck behind one of the local farmers tractors, but don’t worry, it’s not for long. Everything is so much more relaxing here on the weekdays.  

So if that isn’t enough encouragement to get to come to the Starved Rock area (and preferably the Brightwood Inn) on the weekdays, we have our “Save Big Bucks” deal. Do you have the ability to stay two nights?  If you answered yes then we have a deal for you.   Stay 2 nights in Door County or Turkey Run and weโ€™ll give you $15 off per night.  Stay 2 nights in Mackinac or Sequoia and get $25 off per night.  Stay 2 nights in Vieux Carre, Tortola or Mallory Square and get $35 off per night.  Stay in the Aspen Suite and get $40 off per night. Now this is only valid for check in Sunday thru Wednesday.

So if you really want to relax AND save money, take a couple of days off and come to the Brightwood Inn during the week.

There is a reason that our motto is “Relax and enjoy”. ๐Ÿ™‚


BBQ n’ Blues

blues and bbq

In its 2nd YEAR! Theย 1st Annual BBQ-n-Blues was such a success- weโ€™re doing it again!ย On September 11, 2015, weโ€™ll be celebrating with Bands, BBQ & a Rib Cook-Off Contest. Held on 1st Street between Marquette & Goodingย in historic LaSalle, bands will begin at 4:00 pm with the Rib Cook-Off turn in around 6:00 pm with winner announced at 8pm. Enjoy blues sounds through 11:00 or so- and donโ€™t forget to grab some legendary BBQ from one of our vendors!



BBQ-n-Blues Bands

Crossroadsย โ€“ 4:00 PMcrossroads

Steve Cerqua and his band Crossroads have been keeping the blues tradition alive in the Illinois Valley for the past 20 years. Covering music by such artists as Robert Johnson, Muddy Water, Bonamassa and many more!

Written Warningย โ€“ 5:30 PMWrittenWarningCourtHouse1117s

Screaming guitar andย whaling harmonicaย amplifies this modern dayย soulful blues band to anย impressive sonic level.ย Whether playing for a smallย crowd or a packed concertย hall, Written Warningย delivers and connects with every member of the audience.

The Lizzi Neal Bandย โ€“ 7:00 PMlizziNealBand

The Lizzi Neal Band from Northern Illinois is blues with a kick of TNT.
They have won the Rockford Area Music Industry (RAMI) award for โ€ฆBlues Band Artist of the Year two years straight.

Morry Sochatย โ€“ 8:30 PMmorrysochat

Morry Sochat and The Special 20โ€™s are bringing a fresh sound to the Chicago Blues scene. They mix classic Chicago Blues with Swing and Rock Nโ€™ Roll from the 1950โ€™s. The band is influenced by the best in blues history. Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Louis Jordan, Junior Wells, and all of the Chicago greats.

Back Pack Jones โ€“ 10:00 PM


ย Back Pack Jones is an Illinois-based rhythm and blues band that has hit the international blues scene in just over two years after the bandโ€™s formation in 2012.ย  The bandโ€™s success skyrocketed after performing at the prestigious International Blues Challenge in 2013, recognized in the top third of blues bands from across the globe. โ€“ See more at:
Back Pack Jones brings a high-energy show led by the charismatic and extremely talented front man โ€œBig Mike Wallaceโ€ and a show chock-full of Back Pack Jones original blues.

– See more at:

Aronia’s The new SUPER FOOD!

In the Fall of 2011, we planted over 1800 Aronia berry bushes. What is an Aronia berry and why are you growing them you ask? The aronia berry has the highest concentration of antioxidants present in any fruit. We all know the importance of antioxidants in keeping us healthy and fighting diseases. Just this property of the aronia berry ought to make it a top contender for the healthiest fruit/berry ever. Because it is rich in antioxidants, it has a very high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value, almost 80 units which is probably the highest amongst fruits. However, thereโ€™s more. Aronia berries also have a lot of flavonoids which help the body in its fight against viruses, cancer causing elements, also known as carcinogens and different types of allergies.


We will be selling them on the market, but we will also be making jams, jellies, wines, syrups, muffins, trail mix, smoothies and many other things with these incredibly healthy little berries.

The Aronia bush itself is very attractive bush that will reach over 10 feet high and turns a lovely red in the fall.

Recently we have joined the Midwest Aronia Association and we have met a lot of interesting people.ย  One of whom was Mike Mathiasen of Harvest Moon Farms, out of St. Charles Iowa.ย  Mike is trying to do something marketable for the Aronia berries.ย  First off he’s come out with a Aronia juice blend called Aro (pronounced Arrow). The aronia berry drink, ARO, has no added sugars, corn syrup or artificial sweetener and no preservatives. It has been designed to be a tasty and efficient means of adding powerful antioxidants to your diet using the aronia berry. Your daily โ€œstrive for fiveโ€ serving of fruits and vegetables can be largely accomplished with just this little bottle. Drink this 3-5 times each week and reap the many benefits that a diet rich in antioxidants can offer, including less joint stiffness and protection against a variety of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia.

ARO 5ย  ARO 4

Uptown Grill and August Hill Winery

If you need another good reason to stay at the Brightwood Inn, I’ve got two for you!ย  We’ve had for awhile now tickets to getย  free tastings at August Hill winery, but now we also have tickets to get a free appetizer at the Uptown Grill!

7212940420_75a433d3d5august hill

So after you check into the Brightwood Inn and get your tickets, you can cruise up the road to August Hill and get a free wine tasting plus 10% off most anything you can purchase there. They have a beautiful back patio that you can enjoy a glass of one of their many award winning wines on and they also just added on with another beautiful room that they call the lounge.ย  Everything August Hill does is always First Class!


Then after you are done there, you can head on over to the Uptown Grill for a wonderful dinner.ย  They have an extensive menu with a lot of wonderful food to choose from. There you can get a free appetizer (up to $10.00 value!) with the purchase of and entree or sandwich. The Uptown Grill is another classy place where you can always expect great service and great food.

uptown caprese

Then when you are all done, you return to the Brightwood Inn, where you can sit outside for awhile and enjoy the peace and quite amid the beauty of nature. Listen to a chorus of Katydids and tree frogs serenade you while looking at the stars.ย  Then finally return to your room where maybe a relaxing hot tub awaits you, or maybe just a big ultra comfortable bed is waiting to embrace you and rock you to sleep.


Then in the morning, a full complementary breakfast awaits for you.ย  Our breakfasts are made from scratch and made with wholesome ingredients.ย  And when we can, we even use ingredients straight from our own garden!


Then after being fully nourished, it’s time to hit the trails at one of the most visited state parks in the country! Starved Rock State Park.


It’s all waiting for you here at the Brightwood Inn!!ย  Give us a call or reserve on line today!

Aronia Berries in the News!!

This is a great article in USA TODAY about the Aronia berry. Hopefully this might help you understand what we are trying to do here at Brightwood Inn and Farm. And yes, someday all those little bushes planted next to the “Little blue flags” will be this big…. God willing!

Aronia news

MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa (AP) โ€” A new fruit that research says packs more antioxidants than popular “superfoods” like blueberries, acai berries and goji berries is establishing itself in the aisles of mainstream grocery stores, showing up in everything from juices to powdered supplements to baby food.

Its rise from being a novelty item at farmers markets into a multimillion-dollar U.S. industry even includes a name change, from the common chokeberry โ€” so named centuries ago by European settlers who found the tart, astringent berry more pretty than palatable โ€” to the aronia berry, derived from its genus, Aronia melanocarpa.

The native North American berry was introduced in Russia and eastern Europe in the early 20th century and has been cultivated there for juices and wines. Now, farmers throughout the upper Midwest are planting the shrubs by the thousands every year. But the industry’s roots in the U.S. can be traced to Sawmill Hollow Family Farm in the Loess Hills of western Iowa, where most in the industry believe the first bushes were planted for commercial cultivation in the U.S.

Andrew Pittz, 28, is the driving force behind the aronia berry’s emergence. His family was looking for a crop they could cultivate on the hilly, silt-heavy soil near the Missouri River, and in 1997, Pittz’s parents planted some 200 bushes. The bush grows well in the Midwest, has few pests and doesn’t have to be replanted every year.

The Pittz family was successful: Sawmill Hollow products now are sold in about half of Hy-Vee’s 237 stores, and in all of Whole Foods’ 45 Midwest-region stores, according to spokeswomen for the chains. Rather than keep the berry and its economic potential under wraps, Pittz and his family have been spreading word far and wide โ€” especially throughout Iowa.

The farm holds an annual field day that draws thousands in September, and Pittz planted bushes in all 99 Iowa counties last year. Even Iowa State University is helping promote the berry as a value-added crop and a good way to diversify farm income, offering grants to help people get started.

“We want the aronia berry to be to Iowa’s Heartland what the peach is to Georgia.” Pittz said.

His family also has taught others how to plant, grow and market the almost black-purple, pea-sized berries. They even share best practices for pruning the bushes for maximum yield, which they developed over nearly 18 years of trial and error. A mature bush at four to five years can produce up to 20 pounds.

Consumers are taking notice of the potential health benefits, said Stacey Loftus, Hy-Vee’s health and wellness supervisor. Research published last year in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry says aronia’s oxygen radical absorbance capacity โ€” a standard measurement of antioxidant strength โ€” shows the berry has one of the highest values ever recorded for a fruit.

“I don’t think this is a passing fad,” she said.

Antioxidants help protect cells from damage, although there are questions in the medical field as to what role antioxidants play in helping prevent human disease. Federal regulators have, in recent years, targeted companies that have made unsubstantiated health claims about antioxidant-containing products. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission upheld a judge’s decision that POM Wonderful made deceptive claims that its pomegranate products could treat or prevent heart disease, prostate cancer and other illnesses. The FTC’s action is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

More than 440 new products containing aronia โ€” mostly in juices, wines and other drinks โ€” have been introduced worldwide in the last five years; about 60 of those are in the United States, according to the 2013 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Processing Center’s Product Traffic Report, supported by the U.S. Agriculture Department to track new food products.

Aside from Sawmill Hollow products, widely distributed mainstream brands have jumped on board, such as Old Orchard juices and Beechnut baby foods, which introduced an apple and aronia berries puree this year.

The first aronia cooperative โ€” the North America Aronia Cooperative, based in Omaha, Nebraska โ€” was formed earlier this year with members from 10 Midwestern and Great Plains states. Group president Colleen Nipp says the co-op is capable of producing up to 20 million pounds of fruit a year and estimates the current economic impact is about $85 million, “which includes plant sales, berry sales, processing charges, harvesting equipment, growing supplies, irrigation equipment and the sale of finished aronia products.”

But with the industry is in its infancy, it’s difficult to provide overall yearly production numbers or even a common price per pound. Midwest Aronia Association president Melissa Ehrman Johnson says her group, which has members in 12 states and Ontario, Canada, has farmers fetching anywhere from 50 cents per pound to $7.50 a pound.

Johnson and her husband got into business in 2009, planting about 300 bushes on their 10-acre homestead in southwest Iowa farm. The venture has already proved to be profitable, she said, as she’s hoping to move from on-site sales to commercial marketing this year.

There is much to be learned, Johnson says, from another industry that has seen enormous success with its own bitter berry: the cranberry industry.

“We actually have a gentleman who’s on the Cranberry Association who has worked with us from the early get-go to help us out with ideas along the way, particularly with processing … and recipe and product development,” she said.


We don’t know about you, but we’ve been trying to think of ways to stay warm AND beat those winter blues…. Cause we got em!! So how about this? Check in on Friday night and there waiting for you is some delicious piping hot homemade soup and some crusty French Baguettes!! You bring the beverage of your choice, we’ll provide everything else. Sit next to the fireplace and Thaw Out!! Plus we’ll take off $20! And if you want to stay two nights, we’ll take $50 off your second night!! This deal starts March 7th and runs through the end of March. Mention the Soup Deal!