An Exciting New Crop for North America
‘Haskap’ berries (Lonicera caerulea) also known as ‘Blue Honeysuckle’, and ‘Honeyberries’ are a fast growing, cold hardy, high yielding and early harvesting berry touted to be high in vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants in addition to being high in fibre (Haskap Canada Association, n.d). Their taste (while variable depending on the cultivar) is described as being a cross between a blue berry and a raspberry with a bit of zing. They are taking the Canadian Prairies by storm largely due to the breeding program established at the University of Saskatchewan. A large market for Haskap berries already exists in Japan and the U of S is developing its breeding program to cater to that market, while eventually raising public awareness and demand closer to home.
Originating from Siberia, Lonicera caerulea is native to northern boreal forests in Asia, Europe, and North America. In the wild it is mainly found in low lying wet areas or high in mountains (Dr. Bob Bors, n.d.). It has been found in the wild in every province in Canada except for BC. (Haskapberries.Com, 2012).
Hardiness: zone 2
Soil pH: between 5.5 and 8 (OMAFR, 2012).
Soil type: Haskaps grow well in a wide variety of soils including soils that have standing water every spring for a couple of weeks, but they prefer a well-drained soil (Dr. Bob Bors, n.d.).
Size: 1.5-2m in height and width
Pruning: Very little pruning is required in the early years, but mature plants should be thinned in late winter/early spring by removing up to 25% of the oldest growth to the ground (Dr. Bob Bors, n.d.).
Planting and spacing: New plants should be planted 1 – 2 inches deeper than the soil level and spaced 0.75m for hedges; 1.3m or more for individual bushes (OMFRA, 2012).
Water requirements: Keep Haskap shrubs well-watered during the first three years of establishment (this is critical) (Dr. Bob Bors, n.d.). Established shrubs will require less water.
Sun: shade and sun tolerate
Harvest times: Will vary slightly depending on your local but typically they are ready to harvest a few weeks before strawberries.
Pests and diseases: Haskap shrubs have very few pests, but birds can be a bit of a problem. Powdery mildew can also pose a problem with some varieties.
Pollination: Haskap require cross pollination with two unrelated varieties in close proximity for good pollination (Dr. Bob Bors, n.d.).
The Russians have been breeding Haskaps since the 1950s. Their breeding program saw the introduction ‘Honeyberry’ in 1956 (Berries Unlimited, 2010). Haskap breeding began in North America in the 1990’s when Dr. Maxine Thompson of Oregon State University began a breeding program focusing largely on Japanese selections (Danny L. Barney, Ph.D. (n.d.). Around the same time an American nursery man, Mr. Jim Gilbert of ’One Green Earth’, also from Oregon, brought over Russian selections called ‘honey berries’, a term coined by Gilbert. (Danny L. Barney, Ph.D. (n.d.).
Canada jumped on board in the late 1990’s and through the work of Dr. Bob Bors of the University of Saskatchewan, began acquiring both the Russian and Japanese cultivars as well as species from the Kuril Islands and Canada. To date they have amassed one of most diverse collections in the world (Dr. Bob Bors, n.d.). In 2007 they released two named varieties ‘Borealis’ and ‘Tundra’ and 3 test selections, all of which are Russian / Kuril-Island hybrids (Dr. Bob Bors, n.d.).
This exciting new berry crop appears to have a bright future especially for Canadian prairie growers and breeders. Its extreme cold tolerance, high pH tolerance, early mechanical harvesting, high yields with very few pests and diseases makes this a perfect match for prairie farmers. As breeding efforts continue to improve on the taste, berry shape, and growing requirements it is hoped that homeowners and growers of temperate regions near and far will come to embrace this new crop.
- Haskap Canada Association, (n.d.). Indulge in Healthiness. http://haskap.ca/health-
- U of S Fruit Program. Retrieved Feb. 7, 2014, from http://www.fruit.usask.ca/haskap.html
- Dr. Bob Bors, (n.d.). Growing Haskap in Canada. University of Saskatchewan. http://www.fruit.usask.ca/articles/growinghaskapinCanada.pdf
- Haskapberries.Com (2012). What is Haskap. http://haskapberries.com/haskap/what-is-haskap
- The Ontario Haskap Association. The Haskap Story. http://www.ontariohaskap.ca/
- OMAF (2012). Specialty Crop Opportunities. Haskap. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/CropOp/en/spec_fruit/berries/hask.html
- Danny L. Barney, Ph.D.(n.d.). Professor of Horticulture, Superintendent, University of Idaho Sandpoint Research & Extension Center. Haskaps and Honeyberries. http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/carringtonrec/northern-hardy-fruit-evaluation-project/fruit-index/haskap
- Berries Unlimited (2010). History of Honeyberries. http://www.berriesunlimited.com/history/info_18.htm
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