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Haskap

Perennial, spring harvest

Haskap (Lonicera caerulea) is a relatively new crop for Canada and is a type of edible honeysuckle.  Honeysuckles are native to cool temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Even though it is a new crop for commercial growers and backyard gardeners, there are native versions of this plant found in forests and bogs throughout the country.

Edible honeysuckle is known by a variety of names including Blue Honeysuckle, Honeyberry, Sweet Berry Honeysuckle, Swamp Fly Honeysuckle and of course Haskap!  Haskap is what the Japanese call their edible honeysuckles.  The U of S decided to call their honeysuckles Haskap to distance the edible and delicious U of S varieties from other less desirable honeysuckles that were on the market.

Growth Habit

  • Small shrubs that grow about 4-6 feet tall and about 4 feet wide.
  • The plant has opposite leaves with yellow tubular flowers.
  • This plant typically flowers in early May with the fruit ready to harvest in late June early July. It is the first thing to flower in the spring, as well as the first fruit to ripen.
  • The berries are a dark blue/purple colour and come in a wide array of roundish shapes. The flavour description is highly subjective but the most common description is a blueberry raspberry combination.

Planting

  • Plant 1 meter (3 ft) apart and should be planted slightly deeper than the original nursery container.
  • Water frequently until it is established, the first year or so and then keep the soil around the plant moist for the rest of the plant's life.
  • Mulch around plants to keep soil evenly moist.
  • Doesn’t usually need to be fertilized, sometimes a bit of iron can be needed.

Pollination

  • Haskap plants are self incompatible. Therefore they need another plant of a different variety to be pollinated and get fruit. 
  • This chart (also displayed at the end of this article) shows what varieties will pollinate each other. For more information on bloom times, download a detailed pdf.

Pruning

  • These plants don’t typically require any pruning but they can be pruned to suit your yard.
  • Most pruning is done for commercial production. This type of pruning is to make sure that the mechanical harvester is able to easily harvest the fruit.
  • Once the plant gets old and unproductive the bush can be chopped down about half a foot above the surface and allowed to re-grow. This will rejuvenate the plant.

Harvesting

  • Bird protection is required to make sure that you get some fruit off of your plants. Since this fruit is the first thing to ripen in the summer, the birds know it and wait for it. They can easily strip a bush bare. Typically some sort of netting over your bushes works well. Ensure the holes in the netting are no larger than 1/2 inch to prevent birds and cats from becoming entangled in the netting.
  • Hand picking the berries works the best. It is best to pick the berries in the cool part of the day and then refrigerate them immediately. You can also shake the berries off of the bushes into a pail or tarp. We like to use children’s paddling pools! 

Cultivars

There is a wide array of Haskap berries available for sale at local tree nurseries and garden centers. Some of them were developed at the U of S specifically for this climate, while others are developed elsewhere. Choosing a variety depends on the preference of the homeowner. 

 

Cultivar

Berry Size

Flavour

Bush Size

Other

Tundra

1.49 grams

Sweet/Tart

average

Firm fruit, U of S

Borealis

1.62 grams

Sweet/tangy

average

Good for fresh eating, U of S

Indigo Treat

1.41 grams

Sweet

average

Similar to Tundra, U of S

Indigo Gem

1.30 grams

Sweet/tangy

average

Slightly chewy texture, U of S

Indigo Yum

1.29 grams

Tangy/sweet

average

Hard to find in the market, U of S

Aurora

2.17 grams

sweet

large

Fast growing, new release, U of S

Honeybee

1.9 grams

tart

large

Hangs onto its fruit, U of S

Blue Bell, Berry Blue and Cinderella

0.7-0.9 grams

Tart/sweet

large

Russian varieties, ripen earliest

Pests

Haskap has very few pests which make it a very easy plant to grow

  • Birds and previously mentioned love the taste of Haskap just as much as you do so some sort of bird protection is usually required
  • Deer and mice can be a pest in some settings although it is rare for them to attack Haskap.
  • Powdery Mildew can affect Haskap in wet humid years.  This cause the leaves to be covered with a white film at first, and as the infection progresses causes the leaves to brown and fall off.  Treatments like sulfur powders and garlic sprays can be sprayed preventatively but will not help once the infection has happened.  All of the U of S varieties, except Indigo Gem, are highly resistant to powdery mildew while Cinderella, Berry Blue and Blue Bell are susceptible. 

Need more information? Check out the haskap section of our Fruit Breeding program!

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