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Small fruits to discover – Haskap berries

Lonicera caerulea officially – Haskap is the Japanese name for these berries that have been popular in Japan for centuries. Found growing naturally in northern boreal forests, the name Haskap was adopted by a breeding program in Saskatchewan using Japanese parent plants – and the name stuck! It literally means “berry of long life and good vision.” Their wild cousins are known as Edible Blue Honeysuckle, Canadian Honeyberry, or Sweetberry Honeysuckle. These shrubs are easy to grow, very productive and extremely cold-tolerant. Haskaps are the ultimate super berries, with three times the antioxidants as blueberries! 

Growing Haskaps

Haskaps are hardy, deciduous shrubs with an upright habit. They reach
A height of 1.5 m at maturity and a width of approximately 1m. Shrubs can be grown as a low hedge, in the flowerbed, at the back of a border, and even in containers on the deck or balcony.

In early spring, pairs of beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers appear in shades from cream to pale yellow.

Plants start producing large, plump fruits after one year - starting in May and until the end of June. Berries are about 1 cm in diameter, blue like blueberries but more rectangular or oblong, whereas blueberries are round. The taste of Haskap berries is both sweet and tangy and can be described as somewhere between blueberries and raspberries!

Haskap shrubs are not self-pollinating, so they require the pollen of another cultivar to be fertile and produce fruit. Plant two different cultivars with the same flowering period to ensure pollination. They are easily propagated by taking cuttings.

Exposure: Full to partial sun.
Soil: Rich, fresh and well-drained is ideal

Steps for planting in the garden:

  1. Plant in early spring.
  2. Choose a sunny location.
  3. Verify that the soil is rich, fertile, and well-drained.
  4. Dig 3-5 cm lower than the height of the plant pot.
  5. Put a rich mix of soil, sand and compost in the hole.
  6. Remove all dead and damaged branches.
  7. Spread out the roots.
  8. Cover with earth and pat down.
  9. Water thoroughly.
  10. Stagger your planting 80 cm to 1 m for a hedge, and 1.5 m in a flowerbed.

Steps for planting in containers:

  1. Choose a location that provides six to eight hours of sun daily
  2. Plant when all risk of frost has passed.
  3. Choose a dark and well-draining container. Geotextile pots, such as Smart Pots, are excellent options.
  4. Prepare a half and half mix of soil and compost.
  5. Delicately spread out the roots.
  6. Cover with earth, pat down, and water thoroughly.
  7. In the fall, you can either leave your shrubs in their geotextile bags or transplant them into the garden.

Maintaining Haskaps

Naturally cold-weather plants, Haskap shrubs are ideally suited to surviving Canadian winters. Shrubs are also very disease and insect resistant, which makes them even easier to grow and maintain.

Watering: Water consistently during the first year after planting to keep soil moist. Plants in containers require special attention.
Mulch: Add 5 to 10 cm of straw around the base of your plants to keep soil conditions cool.
Fertilizing: Add a layer of compost every year in March and in July. Use an organic or synthetic-based fertilizer, but do not apply it close to branches. Fertilizing in the early stages of the plant's development and in subsequent years is important, but always in small quantities.
Protection: To prevent birds from eating your entire crop, cover your shrubs with netting.
Pruning: Pruning should be done very early in the spring before buds have appeared, starting in the third or fourth year after planting.
Diseases and pests: Powdery mildew is the only disease known to affect these shrubs. Because it develops in July after the harvest, it does not interfere with fruit-bearing or ripening. Leaves will turn white and brown patches will appear. Some varieties are affected more than others.

Haskap harvest and health benefits

Pick your berries three or four days after the skins of the berries have turned completely blue and the flesh is a solid shade of burgundy. Note: berries will look ripe approximately ten days before they actually are, and all the berries on the same bush will ripen at the same time. Once harvested, berries will not continue to ripen.

Haskaps are called super fruits for a reason! Extremely high in antioxidants (anthocyanins, poly phenols, and bioflavonoids), Haskaps are also high in Vitamin C and A, fibre and potassium. They contain the minerals: Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper and Magnesium. No wonder they're called the berry of long life!

Enjoy your Haskaps in so many ways:

  • Fresh
  • Cooked and prepared (coulis et smoothies)
  • Cooked (jams, chutneys, cakes, pies)
  • Processed (juice, wines, vin)

Preserving Haskaps

Eaten fresh, cooked or prepared, effective storage and preserving is essential to making the most of your crop and enjoying their full flavour all year long, even in the winter!

Refrigerated: One week, approximately.
Frozen: Rinse fruit then allow to dry. Spread out on a large tray and put in the freezer. Put frozen berries in a sealed bag or container.
Dried: Rinse haskaps with lemon juice and put in a strainer. Spread out evenly on the dehydrator sheet. Set to 48oC and dry for a minimum of 6 hours.

Varieties to discover

Borealis Haskap:

A popular Haskap variety that produces an abundance of large, sweet, juicy, delicious, blue fruit! Berries are in fact the largest of all Haskaps and very soft (so take care when picking). Shrubs are cold hardy, drought-tolerant and generally fast-growing. Ready to harvest in June.
Height: 1.5 m
Width: 1.5 m

Yezberry Solo:

Japanese Haskap: Developed in Japan, this Haskap variety is prized for its ornamental qualities as well. Shrubs will bear fruit without a pollinator, but will produce larger fruit when planted alongside another Yezberry variety. High yields, extremely cold hardy. Ready to harvest in early summer.
Height: 1.5 to 1.8 m
Width: 1.2 m