Feel free to browse these Frequently Asked Questions about the basics of growing Haskap berries.
Feel free to post questions and one of the volunteer members will answer your question.
Haskap is the Japanese name for Lonicera caerulea, also known as Edible Blue Honeysuckle, Honeyberry and . Haskap is an ancient Japanese name of the Ainu people of Northern Japan for the fruit meaning “berry of long life and good vision”. The first introduction of the cultivated plant to Canada was at Beaver Lodge, AB in the 1950s. The fruit was bitter and not palatable. It has been found in the wild in every province in Canada except for British Columbia.
The name “Haskap” was chosen as the brand name that have been applied to new varieties bred by the Fruit Program at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Haskap berries come from varieties common to a circumpolar species native to northern boreal forests in Asia, Europe, and North America. It is mainly found in low lying wet areas or high in mountains, in a variety of soil and growing conditions.
Most people mistaken the fruit as part of the Vaccinium Family (Blueberries and cranberries), when in fact the fruit is just as closely related to tomatoes. It comes from the Dipsacales Order and is related to the Snowberry and Elderberry.
Haskap have their own unique taste, color and texture. They have very tiny seeds that can be eaten with the berry. The taste has been described as tart/sweet and juicy, like a raspberry. They have a powdery blue skin, like a blueberry but the skin is quite thin and melts in your mouth.
Haskap berries grow on bushes that form a globe shape and can grow 5-7 feet tall over 5-7 years.
It is one of the first fruit crops to set and ripen in the growing season (earlier than
strawberries by a few weeks) and continue to produce berries into the fall. Most
commercial harvesting occurs in the last weeks of June and into late July, depending on the geographical region.
Bushes are well behaved.
- Don’t sucker
- Have no thorns
- Need little pruning in early years
- Tend to fruit when very young
- Drought and cold climate friendly
- Although low to the ground when young, the berries are easy to pick
- The bushes are a globe shape that are great in landscaping
Haskap have few known pests. By far, birds have been the most challenging as they will come in large flocks and decimate bushes ripe with berries. For orchard growers, bird sound / calling devices have been successful to keep small birds away. For gardeners and small orchards, netting and scarecrow type of set-ups are often necessary and have been used successfully.
Only current disease is Powdery Mildew, which tends to show up in the leaves after berry harvest
Check with your propagator supplier for recommendations of herbicides
Hand weeding, plastic mulch and mechanical weed tillers are time consuming but the best options if organic
Annual weeds do not suppress growth
Does not compete with grasses and weeds once established. Grass is good between rows.
Early flowering weeds such as dandelions and clover are essential to attract bees and other insects necessary for pollination
Deer tend not to bother tree or buds
The main pest is Cedar Wax Wing and other berry loving birds
Mice, gophers and moles can be a problem
The University of Saskatchewan varieties are winter cold hardy to -45C, and flowers have been known to survive and set fruit after withstanding -11C temperatures. Haskap is being planted across Canada, the United States, many eastern European Countries, Japan, Russia, Chile and Australia to name a few of the many countries becoming interested in the Haskap berry. Growers in Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories find the Haskap varieties very suited to their short season with long daylight hours.
The bush –
The flowers –
The fruit is an oblong dusty electric-indigo coloured berry about 1 cm diameter and ranging from about 1 – 4 cm long.
All varieties of Haskap or edible blue honeyberry need a pollinizer type of berry bush in order to have optimum berry growth. As a general rule of thumb, you need one pollinizer plant for every 5 plants to be pollinated. It is best if the plants are planted side by side, but as long as bees can easily see both plants at the same time they are probably close enough. Picking a pollinizer plant can sometimes be a bit tricky as not all varieties of Haskap will pollinate each other. See this article by Dr. Bob Bors to learn more.
Haskap flowers are self-incompatible and a second compatible (pollinizer) plant is needed for fruit to produce from the flowers. Bees and insects carry the pollen from one flower to another.
As a general rule of thumb, you need one pollinizer plant for every 5 plants. It is best if the plants are planted side by side, but as long as bees can easily see both plants at the same time they are probably close enough.
A pollenizer (or polleniser), sometimes pollinizer (or polliniser, see spelling differences) is a plant that provides pollen.
The word pollinator is often used when pollenizer is more precise. A pollinator is the biotic agent that moves the pollen, such as bees, moths, bats, and birds. Bees are thus often referred to as ‘pollinating insects’.
The verb form to pollenize is to be the source of pollen, or to be the sire of the next plant generation.
While some plants are capable of self-pollenization, pollenizer is more often used in pollination management for a plant that provides abundant, compatible, and viable pollen at the same flowering time as the pollinated plant. For example, most crabapple varieties are good pollenizers for any apple tree that blooms at the same time, and are often used in apple orchards for the purpose. Some apple cultivars produce very little pollen or pollen that is sterile or incompatible with other apple varieties. These are poor pollenizers.
A pollenizer can also be the male plant in dioecious species (where entire plants are of a single sex), such as with kiwifruit or holly.
Nursery catalogs often specify that a cultivar should be planted as a “pollinator” for another cultivar, when they actually should be referring to it as a pollenizer. Strictly, a plant can only be a pollinator when it is self-fertile and it physically pollinates itself without the aid of an external pollinator. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollenizer
A pollinator is an animal that moves pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower. This helps to bring about fertilization of the ovules in the flower by the male gametes from the pollen grains.
Insect pollinators include bees, (honey bees, solitary species, bumblebees); pollen wasps (Masarinae); ants; flies including bee flies, hoverflies and mosquitoes; lepidopterans, both butterflies and moths; and flower beetles. Vertebrates, mainly bats and birds, but also some non-bat mammals (monkeys, lemurs, possums, rodents) and some lizards pollinate certain plants. Among the pollinating birds are hummingbirds, honeyeaters and sunbirds with long beaks; they pollinate a number of deep-throated flowers.
A pollinator is different from a pollenizer, a plant that is a source of pollen for the pollination process. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollinator
Haskaps require cross pollination of a compatible variety to produce fruit. It is often said that “two varieties are needed for cross pollination” but that rule is an incomplete truth. The whole truth is that “two varieties with different compatibility genes are needed for cross pollination”; they also need to bloom at the same time. (Dr. Bob Bors, http://www.fruit.usask.ca/articles/pollinationstrategy.pdf )
Currently, there are 9 varieties being branded as Haskap in Canada. All of these varieties have come from the University of Saskatchewan Fruit Breeding Program. The following is a chart that shows the pollination combinations of Haskap varieties.
- Mature about 4-5 feet tall
- Firmer skin than other varieties
- Bleeds less from the scar
- Average weight of 1.5gms
- Mature at about 4 feet tall
- Sweeter and larger berry
- Softer skin and bleeds slightly
The Indigo series varieties were initially released for testing alongside ‘Borealis’ and ‘Tundra’ with the numeric labels shown.
Indigo Gem (9-15)
- Mature 5-6 feet
- Large producer
- Smaller tangy firm berry
- Higher incidence of powdery mildew
Indigo Treat (9-91)
- Mature 4-5 feet
- Similar to Tundra but smaller berry
- Plant grows more upright
Indigo Yum (9-92)
Was released by University of Saskatchewan but difficult to propagate
- The Haskap variety released by the University of Saskatchewan to propagators in 2012.
- Selected to be a companion / pollination variety for Borealis
- Selected to be a pollinator for Borealis, Tundra and the Indigo Series
- Very fast growing, productive and starts fruiting at an early age
The University of Saskatchewan has announced the release of new Haskap selections. Larger in size and mid-to-late season, these berries can hold the potential for bountiful fruit production throughout the summer. These new varieties will be available in the following years.
Boreal Blizzard (2016)
- Berries are more than twice as heavy as ‘Tundra’ or ‘Borealis’
- Largest berry variety with strong branches and good taste
Boreal Beauty (2017)
- Very suitable for mechanical harvesting
- Berries are heavy, firm, mostly oval, and hold onto branches
- Fruit fully ripe a month after most varieties
Boreal Beast (2018)
- These are heavier than Tundra and the Indigo series but not as heavy as ‘Boreal Blizzard’ or ‘Boreal Beauty’.
- ‘Boreal Beast’ was so named to help people remember that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ belong together for cross pollination.
The varieties developed by the University of Saskatchewan are listed on their website. http://www.fruit.usask.ca/haskap.html
Varieties have also been developed by other regions of Canada, European countries and Asian countries
There are some older Russian varieties also available. These were introduced to North America by Jim Gilbert in the 1990s
The fruit from these varieties are generally smaller and tarter but the plants are vigorous growers and high producers. Some names include:
- Berry Blue (a great non-related variety to use as a pollinator)
- Blue Bell
- Polar Night
- Polar Jewel
- Northern Jewel
- Haskap are an extremely winter hardy plant
- The flowers can take up to a -7 to -11 Celsius frost
- They grow between Zone 1b and 4. Some of the Japanese varieties will do well in higher zones
- The main issue with warmer climates is that the plants come out of dormancy too early in the spring.
- Plants do best in a loam soil with a pH of 6.5-8
- The optimum organic matter is around 2%
- In heavy clay soil they can get drowned out
- Do not fertilize in late summer
- Can apply a 10-10-10 type of fertilizer
- Generally do not need high levels of nutrients
- Water during the first 2-3 years
- Plants require minimal water after the initial growth period
- Plants should be planted 3”-6” below the top of the root ball
- If you are planning on mechanically harvesting plants should be in a raised bed
- Water immediately after planting
- Can use plastic mulch to reduce weeds
- Harvest is usually last couple of days in June until the middle of July
- The berries should be fully purple all the way through
- Target a Brix of 16
- Fruit does not ripen after picking
- Haskap has an extremely low retention value to the bush – they easily fall off
- Try putting tarps under plant and shake bush to harvest
Side Ways Harvester
- does half the bush and you need a tractor
- Gets right close to the ground
- Bush needs to be pruned in V
Over the Row Harvester
- Completely goes over bush
- Does both sides
- Catch plates are higher
- Pruning should be undertaken in late winter or early spring.
- You should mainly thin out older branches when the bush gets too dense.
- Never remove more that 25% of a bush in any year.
- Haskap does not sucker so you won’t have to worry about that.
- If mechanically harvesting may need to prune lower branches to train bush to grow upright.
- Properly maintained trees should last a lifetime
Haskap makes great wine, spirits/liqueurs, juice, jam, spreads, tarts, chutneys and relishes, ice cream, yogurt, dried berries and powdered berry mixes.