What is Haskap?
Haskap is a deciduous fruit bearing shrub, growing to approximately 1.5 – 2 metres tall. The leaves are opposite, oval, 3 – 8 cm long and 1 – 3 cm broad, glaucous green, with a slightly waxy texture. The flowers are yellowish-white, 12 – 16 mm long, with five equal lobes; they are produced in pairs on the shoots. The fruit is a blue colored elongated berry about 1 cm in diameter.
“Haskap” is the name given to this fruit by the Japanese. Other names include edible honeysuckle, blue honeysuckle and honeyberry. The species is native to northern Japan, Russia and Canada.
It is part of the Dipsacales Order and is, in fact, more closely related to tomatoes as well as the Snowberry and Elderberry. It is not related to blueberries or cranberries, which are part of the Vaccinium Family. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lonicera_caerulea for further information.
Haskap was introduced to Canada as an exciting new offering from the University of Saskatchewan Fruit Breeding Program. This unique fruit is showing promise as it grows, is harvested, processed and marketed domestically and in export markets.
The Canadian prairies are proving to be an ideal place to grow haskap. The University of Saskatchewan varieties are cold hardy to -45C, and flowers have been known to survive and set fruit after withstanding -11C temperatures. Growers in Alaska and the Northwest Territories find the haskap varieties very suited to their short season with long daylight hours.
The flavour of haskap has been described as somewhere between a blueberry, a Saskatoon berry and a raspberry. With the unique quality of having a skin that will melt in your mouth, and seeds that are so small they are not noticeable, haskap is ideally suited to create a superior processed product.
University of Saskatchewan fruit breeder Dr. Bob Bors crossed the tastier Japanese varieties with the more winter hardy Russian varieties to develop a series of licenced varieties released by the University of Saskatchewan’s Fruit Breeding Program, which are suited to orchard production, as well as smaller gardens. Different selections vary in sweetness, tartness, and juiciness, as well as fruit volume yield, so different cultivars are recommended for juicing, drying, jam making, wine making and other value added products.
Growing Haskap can be a very rewarding experience. However, knowing about pollination is key to successful berry production. All varieties need a pollinator type of berry bush in order to have optimum berry growth. The official pollinators are Aurora and Honeybee (listed below). As well any of the older Siberian blue honeysuckle (such as: berryblue, bluebell Svetlana, northern jewel) will serve to pollinate other varieties. The University of Saskatchewan Fruit Program has a very good chart to assist you in choosing varieties that will work well together: http://www.fruit.usask.ca/haskap.html
Bees and other insects are also key to good pollination. There has been a lot of focus on this topic in research. See the work done by researchers on our blog.
The following varieties of Lonicera caerulea are classified as Haskap by the Haskap Canada Association. No other edible blue honeysuckle variety is classified as Haskap at this time.
- Mature about 4-5 feet tall
- Firmer skin than other varieties
- Bleeds less from the scar
- Average weight of 1.5 gm
- Mature at about 4 feet tall
- Sweeter and larger berry
- Softer skin and bleeds slightly
- Haskap variety released to propagators in 2012.
- Selected to be a companion variety for ‘Borealis’
- A pollinator
- Selected to be a pollinator for ‘Borealis’, ‘Tundra’ and the ‘Indigo’ series
- Very fast growing, productive and starts fruiting at an early age
The Indigo series varieties were initially released for testing alongside ‘Borealis’ and ‘Tundra’ with the numeric labels shown. Click here to see more Indigo Series information
Indigo Gem (9-15)
Indigo Treat (9-91)
Indigo Yum (9-92)The University of Saskatchewan has announced the pending release of two new Haskap selections, Boreal Beauty and Boreal Blizzard. Larger in size and mid-to-late season, these berries can hold the potential for bountiful fruit production throughout the summer. These will be available in 2016.
- Very suitable for mechanical harvesting
- Berries are heavy, firm, mostly oval, and hold onto branches
- Fruit fully ripe a month after most varieties
- Berries are more than twice as heavy as ‘Tundra’ or ‘Borealis’
- Largest berry variety with strong branches and good taste