What are haskap berries?
As a farm growing this specialty crop, we get the question, “what are haskap berries?” a lot, so we thought we’d do a quick post! A haskap is a berry that is dark blue in color and resembles an elongated blueberry. When ripe, the inside of the berry is a deep purplish red color.
The skin is much like a blueberry and the inside has a texture similar to a kiwi. They are also called Honeyberries, Blue Honeysuckles, Edible Honeysuckles, Canadian Honey Berry, Haskap and Sweet Berry in certain regions and areas. The haskap is a circumpolar species native to northern boreal forests in Asia, Europe, and North America. The plants themselves look much like a blueberry plant and some varieties grow up to 6 feet tall, though most are between 4 and 5 feet and are quite hardy when planted in the right environment.
What do the berries taste like?
To us, the haskap berry tastes like a cross between raspberries, blueberry and rhubarb. It’s a really tart berry when eaten freshly picked. Our family eats them straight out of the field, but we use the majority of them for our fruit spreads, which sweetens them up a bit.
What are the health benefits?
In Japan, haskap is called ‘the fruit of longevity.’ Haskaps are considered a superberry because they are extremely rich in nutrients and antioxidants that help prevent multiple diseases and cancers. When added to a healthy diet and lifestyle, haskap is believed to help prevent heart disease, cancers, cardiovascular diseases,diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases (according to leading alternative health expert, Bryce Wylde).
What are haskap used for?
We use our berries in our fruit spreads (low sugar jam), smoothies, mixed in yogurt, ice cream or fresh. In Canada, where haskap is more widely grown, the berry is also used in wines, syrups, salad dressings, for dried smoothie powders and even beauty products. They are amazingly versatile and we can’t wait to have a larger crop to start experimenting with! In 2018, we were honored to win a Good Food Award for our Aronia-Haskap Fruit Spread and we often sell out of it within a day of listing on our online shop!
About the haskap on our farm
We are one of the first growers of haskap berries in the Pacific Northwest. Our plants are from both a specialty breeder in Oregon and from Saskatchewan, Canada. We have a several varieties because the flowers cannot pollinate otherwise. At least two varieties of haskap, planted in close range, are necessary to get adequate pollination. Our
varieties have been selected as best fits for our soil type, climate and yield potential. We are picky in choosing which types to plant on our farm because we want to make sure we get the most berries possible…and that has taken a lot of trial and error over the last few years. As farmers, we choose crops which can help improve our land and that will respond well to our biological farming methods (we’ll have to explain more about these methods in another blog down the road..)
Mason Bees and pollinators
Another practice that we have implemented to be sure that our haskaps grow and pollinate well in the early spring is that we work to make sure Mason Bees make the farm home. These bees are some of the earliest pollinators in our area. We provide houses for them (see the picture below)
and make sure they are placed near our early blooming crops. We also do everything we can to provide food and a home for all pollinators, bumblebees, honeybees, etc. We certainly aren’t going to turn away any pollinators willing to help us out on the farm.
Soil, sun and harvesting
Our farm has been the perfect growing environment for haskap plants because they love growing where water is readily available and the soil is well drained. They also enjoy full to partial sun. The berries usually ripen in late May (even earlier than most strawberries in Oregon). We hand harvest our crop but hope, someday, to have a more efficient system in place. For now, we pick them berry by berry and hand sort to get the best fruit for our products and fresh eating.
Want to follow along with our farming adventures and learn more?
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