The Haskap Berry

Haskap LabelThe Haskap berry is another unique berry that I recommend to home gardeners. In Latin, the Haskap plant is known as Lonicera Caerulea.

Sometimes you’ll see Haskap spelled in other ways such as Hascap, Haskaap and Hasukappu. The name is of Japanese origin. 

The Haskap berry is growing in popularity and is touted as the newest super berry health food. It has greater health benefits than most other berries. Each big berry holds a powerhouse of antioxidants that are greater than that of both blueberries and cranberries. 

The Haskap berry has higher levels of vitamins A and C as well as significant fiber and potassium. Since they have these great qualities I decided to add two of them to my garden. 

Sun Scalded Haskap

We also had a bit of a dry spell and one of the plants got sun scalded. So hopefully they’ll produce next season after they’ve had a year to recover. The only drawback that I’ve found with this plant is that it takes a ton of water! The berries are large and they need a lot of it to plump up. This plant is appearing to need a very large container or plant it directly in the ground.

It’s becoming more well known and the plants can be seen in the local nurseries frequently. It produces an odd looking berry that looks like an elongated, misshapen blueberry.

But it’s not a blueberry at all, it’s part of a different plant family altogether that’s more closely related to tomatoes, snowberries and elderberries. The berries that a Haskap plant produces are huge! They are much larger than blueberries. Blueberries are of the vaccinium family and the Haskap berry is of the lonicera family.

Other names for this plant includeYoung Haskap, Edible Honeysuckle, Edible Blue Honeysuckle, Honeyberry, Sweetberry.

Characteristics

This fruit bearing shrub is native to Siberia, Russia, Canada and Japan. It has been common in these places for centuries.

The leaves are opposite to each other and oval, ranging from 3 – 8 cm long and 1 – 3 cm wide. The leaves have a thicker texture than the regular blueberry leaf.

The Haskap has a sweet but zingy flavour that’s like a combination between a blueberry, raspberry and Saskatoon berry with melt in your mouth thin skin. It has very small undetectable seeds. It’s a totally unique fruit.

This plant likes an acidic soil just like a blueberry but it can handle a greater range of acidity levels. The Haskap will grow in soil that ranges from 5 – 8.5 pH.

New Growth on HaskapThe Haskap is a very hardy plant that is well suited to cold climates and long winters. The varieties from Saskatchewan are cold hardy to -45° C. Any climate that’s similar to, or warmer than the Canadian prairies will be suitable for the Haskap berry to thrive. Gardeners in Alaska and the Northwest Territories will see good results even with their short growing season. 

Pruning

The Haskap shrub can grow up to 8 feet tall, but is usually 4′-6′ tall. A large mature shrub can produce up to 10 pounds of fruit each season. It should have late winter or early spring pruning to keep the size under control. 

The berries grow on one year old branches so cutting out older branches will encourage more new branches to grow and therefore the shrub will produce more fruit. It’s good to cut out the oldest branches, but only up to 10 – 15% of the total plant each year.

Harvest

The berries are unusual looking and will attract the birds quickly. They will look ripe a solid two weeks before they actually are ripe and good tasting. Unripe berries will be green inside and the ripe ones will be a dark purple red colour inside. The berries are large and when ripe will often fall off of the plant on their own due to their weight.

PollinationHaskap Flowers

The Haskap berry needs two plants of different varieties nearby each other in order to have optimum pollination and the best crop results. There are currently 5 varieties of Haskap:

  • Indigo Series
  • Tundra
  • Boreal Blizzard 
  • Boreal Beauty
  • Honeybee
  • Aurora – Pollinator

The University of Saskatchewan is leading the way with Haskap development and is creating new varieties each season. Boreal Blizzard and Boreal Beauty were released in 2016. These two varieties have improved production, absolutely huge berry size as well as improved vigor.

Pests

Birds aka “flying berry destroyers” are a big fan of these berries too! You’ll likely have to buy some plastic mesh bird netting and find other ways to keep the birds off the plants.

The reflective scare tape or scare away disks that glitter in the sun will help to deter the birds from landing on your patch of berries. These tools work easily without harming the birds. The silver glittery material blows in the wind it catches the sunlight randomly and glints brightly.

It messes up their radar and it’s becomes very difficult for them to see where to land. So they will fly off to find an easier branch to land on and will leave your berry plants alone.

Uses

Haskap berries can be used exactly the same way as other berries are used in both sweet and savoury recipes. They are great in everything from simple jams and jellies to ice cream and salad vinaigrette to chutney and even wine. Of course, that’s if any of them make it into the kitchen after fresh picking.

Do you already grow the Haspkap berry in your garden? Leave a comment and tell me what you think of it. 

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