What are Haskap Berries?
Haskaps are quickly becoming North America's newest super fruit. They are from the honeysuckle family ( Lonicera Caerulea), and sometimes called Edible Honeysuckle, Honeyberry or Sweetberry Honeysuckle. The word Haskap comes from "Hasukappu", the name the Japanese indigenous Ainu people, gave this fruit, means "little presents on the end of branches". The wild fruit bush grows naturally throughout the northern hemisphere. Using wild bushes from Russia and Japan, Canadian scientists have created the best, new varieties in the world.
Of course, the best way to learn is to try it for yourself. However, you might find it hard to find haskaps because the industry is just starting to build. The powerful flavor is about 3/4 blueberry, 1/4 raspberry, with undertones of black current and elderberry. Expect for your tasted buds to enjoy the Haskap zing!
The skin of the haskap is a dark blue to purple, with each berry having a very wide range of shapes and sizes. The main breeder at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Bors, tried to have haskaps published in the Guinness World Records as the world's most diversely shaped fruit. Typically they are about an inch long (2.5 cm), looking like an elongated blueberry. While older varieties have an individual fruit weight 1.3 grams, the new varieties are considerably heavier at 2.6 grams. The seeds are extremely small, almost unnoticeable. The juice of the fruit is a very deep crimson or burgundy colour.
The look of the fruit reveals its Japanese or Russian lineage. The Japanese fruit are commonly more ovate, and have hairs at the calyx, or bottom, of the fruit. The Russian types are typically longer and the fruit can be bumpy.
Haskap bushes grows to be 5 to 5.5 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Typically a four year old bush yields 1.75 lb. of fruit, or 1/3 of the 5.5 pounds of berries after 6 years, depending on the variety, increasing from 1.75 lbs or 33% in year four, and 4.25 lbs or 75% in year five. Haskap bushes will sustain their maximum yields for 30 to 40 years, if properly pruned. This is proven by commercial production in Japan since the 70’s and Russia since the 50’s, and Dr. Bob Bors at the UofS since 1998.
One of the most amazing qualities is the temperature hardness of the haskap, being able to withstand winter temperatures of-50 Celsius, zone 2a. Orchards are prospering in White Horse, Yukon, attesting to their temperate abilities. It has also been demonstrated that the plant needs to take winter temperatures of below -25 Celsius in order to properly set flowers in the spring. This has been seen in the warm coastal climates of British Columbia, where if the winters are too mild haskaps flower in February, when there are no insects to pollinate them. Currently breeding work is being conducted to remedy this problem. The most well known breeder being Dr. Maxine Thompson, Corvallis, Oregon. Rosy farms is trialing her new varieties, Kawai, Tana, Taka, Chito, Keiko.
In Alberta, Haskaps are the earliest fruit to produce, two weeks before strawberries and two months before blueberries. This is because the plant flowers before it leafs out, early May. The flower is able to withstand temperatures of -7 Celsius. The new Boreal Beauty, Boreal Beast, Boreal Blizzard and Dr Maxine Thompson's varieties harvest end of July, beginning of August. Haskaps have a harvesting window of Late June through August.