I found out about the haskap berries earlier this week during the annual President’s Choice Lawn and Garden Event held for garden media. The breeder who developed the haskap for commercial production, University of Saskatchewan’s Dr Bob Bors gave a brief synopsis of the plant.
I was intrigued to find out that it only takes a year before the small 1.2 m (4 ft.) bush starts to fruit. Usually berry bushes take 2 to 3 years before they start to bear fruit. But, haskaps aren’t self-fertile, so just like apples and pears you need two different haskap varieties to get fruit.
And they are super cold hardy. Originating from Siberia, haskap plants can withstand winter temperatures of -47 Celsius (-52 Fahrenheit). That’s Zone 1, folks!
Remember how concerned we were last week about frost zapping flowers (and therefore fruit)? Won’t happen to this berry. Haskap’s open flowers can endure -7 Celsius (19 Fahrenheit) and you can harvest haskap fruits earlier than strawberries!
Haskaps may be a brand new plant on the market, but the plant has been growing wild and regularly eaten in Siberia (where it originates) other parts of Russia, as well as China and Japan for a long time.
Because I can get drawn in by marketing hype as much as the next guy, I Googled “haskap” to get some objective information. Royal Horticultural Society gave me the goods on haskaps. Haskaps, Lonicera caerulea, belongs to the honeysuckle family and go by the names honeyberry, blue honeysuckle or edible honeysuckle.
Instead of one year to fruit production, RHS advises us that “it can take up to two years before you will get a crop.” The difference in information might be a cultivar difference. It is such a new crop, not much information is available.
Another good caveat, even if the skin of the berry looks ripe, RHS cautions us to “check to make sure that the flesh is purple-red as green under-ripe fruits can be very sour.” In fact when I tried haskap jam, it did taste a little tart.
Haskap berries. Photo courtesy of President’s Choice
Marketing hype says the haskap berries taste like a “cross between a blueberry, a raspberry and a Saskatoon berry.” I will have to go with RHS and Kathy Purdy – Cold Climate Gardening blog — on this one and predict that it will taste more like a tart blueberry.
All that being said, I think haskap berries are a good addition to the berry market. It is super cold hardy, and in sharp contrast to blueberries, grows in most types of soil (alkaline or acid). The bonus? A mature plant bears plenty of fruit, about 6 kg per plant early in the season.
I am thrilled to test the two plants: Boreals’ Haskap Honeyberry (Lonicera caerula ‘Borealis’) and Indigo gem Haskap Honeyberry (Lonicera caerula ‘Indigo Gem.’
Thank you, President’s Choice & Peter Cantley for the plants.
One last thing before I sign off…the name throws me off. Haskap…Really?!? Honeyberry is a much better name … poetic and easier to say too.
Berry more information …
AlbertaHome Gardening. The Documented Experiences of an Alberta Gardener: Introduction to Haskap Berries (aka Honeyberries)
Berries Unlimited. Your source of quality tissue cultured berry plants: History of honeyberries
Cold Climate Gardening Blog: Edible Blue Honeysuckle: A Fruit for Cold Climates
RHS Gardening Advice: Honeyberry