Articles

Haskaps

(Lonicera edulis kamtschatica)

This is an exciting new crop for the Prairies! You may know it as blue honeysuckle, haskap or honeyberry, but whatever you call it, it has great potential as a hardy, no-nonsense fruit that has few insect and disease pests and requires little effort. The flavour has been described as a blend of raspberries and blueberries, but it really has its own unique taste.

The Japanese have known about this plant for hundreds of years and the Russians have been collecting wild plants and breeding them since the 1950s. The University of Saskatchewan is once again leading the way in developing this as a Prairie-hardy fruit crop. Dr. Bob Bors has amassed one of the most diverse collections in the world, with plants from Russia, Japan, the Kuril Islands and Canada.

In 2007, the U. of S. released Borealis and Tundra, and three test selections, 9-91, 9-92 and 9-15, which are all Russian/Kuril Island hybrids. These were selected by Dr. Bors because they have larger fruit than Russian cultivars currently on the market, better taste and a nice round shape. But their cold-hardiness is probably their biggest attribute – they can survive extremely cold winters and will stay dormant if there is a short mid-winter warm spell.

Another great thing is their early harvest, 2 weeks before strawberries. Ripe fruit are often ready by the end of June. They ripen uniformly, with all the fruit ready at the same time, important for commercial production where mechanical harvesting could be used.

Visit Haskap Canada Association for more information on producing and marketing Canadian haskaps or the University of Saskatchewan Haskap Research Program.


Cultivars

We are propagating the U. of S. cultivars, Borealis, Tundra, Indigo Gem (9-15), Indigo Treat (9-91) and Indigo Yum (9-92) and two from One Green World Nursery in Oregon, Berry Smart Blue and Berry Smart Belle. 

For more information on the different cultivars that we offer, please see the following haskap table.  For  a more printer friendly version, please click here.

Borealis

Borealis has the largest (1.62 g) and best tasting fruit, and is best for U-picks and home gardens.  Fruit bruise easily when mechanically harvested so this cultivar should not be used for processing.  This is the best haskap for fresh eating.

Tundra

Fruit have a firm texture, making them best-suited for commercial production and mechanical harvest. Berry size is large, 1.49 g, and flavour is very good.

Indigo Treat (9-91) (Unavailable until Spring 2015)

Fruit have good firmness, making them a suitable processing cultivar. Berry size is 1.41 g, slightly smaller than Tundra.

Indigo Yum (9-92) (Unavailable until Spring 2015)

Indigo Yum has been described as a smaller version of Tundra (1.29 g fruit). It has firm fruit, so it can withstand the rigours of mechanical harvesting. Berries of 9-92 are more stretched than the other 9 series haskaps.

Indigo Gem (9-15)

(Unavailable until Spring 2015)

The fruit of this cultivar are small (1.29 g) and have a chewy texture, possibly indicating a more durable fruit.   Indigo Gem is a productive cultivar that is good for processing.

Honeybee  

The University of Saskatchewan has released a new pollinator called Honey Bee to pollinate Borealis, Tundra, and the Indigo (B, T, I) haskaps.  It has several favourable traits:

  • It blooms at the same time as the cultivars it’s meant to pollinate
  • It produces good fruit set in the producing cultivar i.e. pollination is successful
  • It is productive and vigorous, starts fruiting at an early age
  • Honeybee fruit is tarter than B, T, I but better tasting than most Russian pollinators
  • It holds onto its fruit firmly and fruit stays on the plant longer; most Russian haskaps drop their fruit when ripe but not Honey Bee
  • It has a high degree of powdery mildew resistance in test plots
  • Because if its large size (50% taller than Borealis) it can pollinate up to 8 plants
  • It could possibly be used as a guard row to prevent birds from feeding on the inner producing rows.  Since Honey Bee fruit isn’t knocked off the plant as easily as other haskaps, perhaps it can keep birds away from the producing rows
  • It is not recommended for mechanical harvesting as its cylindrical shape doesn’t let it move well in equipment

Click here for more info from the U of S.  Available fall 2012/spring 2013.

Berry Smart Blue™(Unavailable until Spring 2015)

This is a vigorous cultivar that grows to 6-8 ft. tall. It flowers much the same time as the U. of S. cvs. so we are recommending it as the pollinator for the U. of S. cvs. Berry Blue fruit are smaller (0.6 g) than the haskaps listed above but they have good flavour, and are good for making jam.

Berry Smart Belle™

Berry Belle is not as vigorous as Berry Blue, growing 3-4 feet tall. Fruit weight averages 0.9 g. Borealis is a good pollinator for Belle.

Pollination

Like apples, haskaps need another genetically distinct cultivar for pollination. We recommend using Smart Berry Blue or Honeybee for the U. of S. haskaps, and Borealis as a pollinator for Smart Berry Blue. Keep in mind that the cultivar you use for pollination will also produce fruit!

The ratio of pollinators to producing plants is about 1 to 8 i.e. 1 pollinator for every 8 producing plants. If you are planting a large area of haskaps you can plant them so that every producing plant is next to a pollinator (X = producer, P = pollinator).

X X X X X X

X P X X P X

X X X X X X

X X X X X X

X P X X P X

X X X X X X

X X X X X X

X P X X P X

Planting and Spacing

Haskaps can be planted 1 or 2 inches deeper than the original depth to establish a deeper root system. If you wish to have a hedge effect, space plants 3 feet within the row; if you want the plants to remain separate, plant them 4-4.5 feet apart.

Between row spacing depends on how the fruit will be harvested. If they are planted for a u-pick operation, you need adequate space between the rows to allow for customers to move up and down the rows comfortably (e.g. 8-10 ft). If you have some sort of mechanical harvester, you may need to have greater space between the rows, depending on the size of equipment (15-18 ft.)

Fertilizer and Water Management

Since haskaps are such a new crop, not much is known about their fertilizer requirements. Dr. Bors, from the U. of S., feels that Prairie soils are fertile enough to sustain haskaps. Since there are no established guidelines, he suggests using fertilizer recommendations for tomatoes or potatoes.

Water immediately after planting. For the first three years after planting, supplemental watering is critical to promote deep root growth. During hot summer months, plants may need regular irrigation. Established plants may need no additional water other than what is provided through rainfall.

Generally, it is better to water thoroughly less frequently with large volumes of water than it is to water frequently with small amounts of water. The goal is to provide water that helps develop a deep root system that will sustain the plant as it matures.

Insect and Disease Pests

Haskaps have few pest problems. Powdery mildew may be a problem on some cultivars.

Netting may be needed to keep birds out of the plants.

Pruning

Haskap plants have a naturally round shape and don’t need much pruning. In the late winter or early spring, pruning should be done to take out older branches when the plant gets too dense. Don’t remove more than 25% of the plant in one year.

Harvest and Yield

You may see a few fruit the first year after planting but it will be a few years before there is any considerable yield. After 5 years, you might see 5-7 kilos (11-15 lb) per plant.

Haskaps are an early crop! Berries start to change colour the first week of June but fruit aren’t fully ripe until the end of June. If the fruit have changed colour on the outside but are still green on the inside, they are not yet ripe – give them a few more days. The berry flesh should be red.