Haskap Berries in the PNW ?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by dt-van, May 11, 2012.

  1. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    I recently received a President's Choice flyer trumpeting "A new berry's in town and it's really going to shake things up. A cross between a blueberry, a raspberry, and a Saskatoon berry, plump juicy Haskap berries arrive very early in the season..."

    Such a tri-generic hybrid would certainly have shaken up the plant breeding world, but alas, as expected, the truth is more prosaic. It seems the Haskap is actually a variety of edible honeysuckle originating in Siberia which some people think tastes like the above mix. Recently developed at the University of Saskatchewan for commercial production, it's decribed as fruiting earlier than strawberries and being extremely hardy.

    Whether it will due well in our mild wet climate will be interesting to see, but anyone buying a single 1 gallon pot for $19.95 is likely to be disappointed next year. The plants for sale probably have berries on them, but Haskaps need another genetically distinct cultivar for pollination. The ad doesn't mention whether PC offers more than 1 variety.

    For more info. on Haskap see http://prairietechpropagation.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=56%3Ahaskaps&catid=15%3Aplant-list&Itemid=71
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2012
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I've been looking forward to trying the blue honeysuckle fruit since I learned about them a few years ago.

    More marketing bumph though about a new product -- I had to disappoint people in another forum about "pineberries!" (being sold as a cross between strawberries and pineapple in some supermarket chains). At least the marketing for the haskap is using all dicots.

    A "pineberry" is simply a strawberry that doesn't produce anthocyanins (in high concentrations?), and so isn't coloured red. More of a pale greenish-yellow.
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Other blue honeysuckle cultivars have been on the market for years. Have never had occasion to taste the fruit, but plants at local outlets are comparatively attractive.
     
  4. Naxossa

    Naxossa Member

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    I think Galen Weston jumped the gun a bit with his article on the Haskap and subsequent offering of the plants through their garden centers. Second year (2013) they had two in a pot (Borealis and Honeybee). At the same time I think it was a smart move. People will get a bit of a taste of the (for us) brand new fruit. He also is fully aware that the birds will probably get most of the berries and people will come to the stores for more.
    We'll be moving into our fourth year in 2014 with close to one acre. We have planted another acre last year and two more this year after we had a taste of the berries this year. Any comparison with raspberries or blueberries falls short of the real taste of a fully ripe haskap. We'd like to call it a blueberry with zing. It has that little bit of a bite of freshness that the blueberry lacks. It's the reason you can make wine with haskaps but not with blueberries. The level of antioxidants as well as polyphenols surpasses that of the blueberry by quite a bit. Ref. Berry fruits as a source of Biologically active compounds, [2]The case of Lonicera Caerulea. and Constituents of Antimicrobial Properties of Blue Honeysuckle: A Novel source for Phenolic antioxidants. Both Palacky University, Czech Republic.
    I see no reason why it wouldn't work in the PNW.
    You may experience more mildew in the PNW, but one or two sprays with hydrogen peroxide will probably keep them free. In Ontario we have discovered one spray is enough. Start the spray preventative as soon as a touch of white begins to show.
     
  5. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    I've been growing a few varieties of honeyberry (AKA Haskap) for the past few years, and while they are attractive plants which fit in well with an edible landscape (nice blue-grey leaves, relatively large yellow flowers), they taste markedly inferior to a good blueberry: even when fully ripe, they never fully lose their sour taste (you say 'zing'; I say 'sour'...marketing language adheres to this berry on a molecular level, it seems). Up until now (it's changing as it hits the anti-oxidant craze-stream), it has primarily been sold as a berry crop in regions where many other berries won't grow, and while it's a good addition to a berry patch here on the coast, we can (in this region) grow a bunch of other berries which are (in my opinion) far superior in terms of flavour and sweetness.

    Haven't had any mildew issues: seems to be a vigorous, tough and attractive. The fruit is untroubled by birds (at least for me), which might be due to the fact that it hangs beneath the leaves, and is somewhat hidden.
     
  6. Naxossa

    Naxossa Member

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    @ woodschmoe. Your experience is not unfamiliar. Had the same reaction from another person but on closer inspection she was growing Russian varieties (Berry Blue and others) which are the reason they never became popular in Europe. They are sour, fairly smallish. Within the SK varieties there is also a marked difference in sweetness, although I have yet to taste a sweet haskap. The Indigo Gem (9-15) might come closest, with Borealis a close second. There is a new one at the propagators, which will become available in spring 2014 as I understand, which has more Japanese in its line, which has a higher Brix level, but I would hate to see the haskap losing its tartness. Tart is not exactly the same as sour. In fact a strawberry has a Brix level that is 4 to 6 points lower than a ripe haskap. And don't forget, a blue haskap does not mean a ripe haskap. It is not like a blueberry, blue on the outside green on the inside. It is blue throughout, that is also the reason for the extremely high antioxidant content.
    In general I think your experience may not really be representative of the general opinion.
    Actually, that the birds don't go after your haskaps should tell you something, I think. Haskaps are not exactly hidden, although it is true that there are a lot more hidden than you see.
    In closing, if it was as bad as you think, a special delegation from Japan would not have bothered to visit and neither would they be as exited as they sounded.
     
  7. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    Yup, most of my varieties are Russian types,; I also have Japanese Hokkaido, and it's essentially similar.

    There might well be an objective difference between 'tart' and 'sour', but I'm coming from an edibility perspective, and whether you call it one or the other, it's much the same: the first response is to pucker, and that is (in my opinion) an undesirable trait in a berry. Might be different outside the Northwest: but here, with many berries to choose from growing-wise, there are much better berries to grow for eating.

    The "general opinion" about this (to which you refer) is an elusive thing: everyone I know also finds them less tasty than a blueberry, and I suspect that "general opinion" is entirely a function of who you talk to. In the case of Haskap promoters, I suppose the general opinion tends to the positive. I, however, have no stake in it's success of failure, and merely report what I (and others in the Northwest, at any rate) tend to report. As you say, you have yet to taste a sweet Haskap. I think that should tell you something.

    Special delegations from Japan don't impress: seeking to participate in a hot crop market (or a projected hot market) speaks to the hype, not necessarily the quality, sweetness, or taste of the fruit.

    I suspect that in the absence of the highly trendy anti-oxidants, this berry would remain in obscurity if it were based on flavour alone.

    As I said: a pretty bush, very nice as an ornamental edible, and a decent, though not exactly choice, berry. In areas where one has a choice of berries to grow, I would place it low on the list. The breeding work you refer to might yield more promising results, however...would still take a ripe blueberry over a honeyberry any day, in terms of taste, and I doubt it will topple the blueberry in terms of market share, which is as good a measure of general opinion as you can find. Hope it carves out a decent niche for growers just the same, particularly in regions where options are limited in berry crop-wise.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
  8. Naxossa

    Naxossa Member

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    I guess taste differ no sense in arguing about that. I have tasted blueberries from offshore that had absolutely no taste. Several of the high bush in this area don't really have a whole of taste, except for a couple of organic operations where blueberries taste like the ones we were used to in PEI.
    The puckering you refer to I usually associate with red currants and Montmorency cherries.
    However there is another thing that sort of puzzles me. You appear to have no mildew problems, even though, as you say you have mainly Russian varieties. That seems very odd to me. All the haskaps that we leave unprotected (no H2O2) get mildew. Has nothing to do with the site or location in the field. Since we've been doing research on this, we have to make sure that things turn out as we hope they will be for our specific area (Hastings County,Eastern Ontario). We have alternated sprays and observed no difference.
    Not getting mildew could mean a windy site, which means cooling, affecting your daily mean, which could affect sugar levels. Cold nights in spring and early summer have given us better berries than when the nights stay warmer. The same was true for our other tart ones, the tart cherries, called sour cherries in Canada. The cherries don't really get to the sugar levels where we like them until the nights turn cooler, which is usually August. The early ones (Carmine Jewel) never get those levels, but they are mainly for processing.
    Getting one from Hokkaido might not mean a whole lot. According to the Japanese delegation they have quite a variety, not all them good enough to pass muster.
    But you are right, we're looking for fruit that can grow where others won't.
    And no I am not here to impress anybody, just stating what we have found so far.
    We did notice one thing though in the tastings this past summer, which we found interesting : the older crowd was generally more critical, the enthusiasm came usually from the younger crowd.
    Maybe a generation raised on cookies and cake has developed a bit sweeter tooth? :-)
     
  9. pinenut

    pinenut Active Member 10 Years

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    Lots of people growing them here. Last time I tasted them I thought they were kind of soapy, but I bought some seedlings and planted them this year. We'll see...
     
  10. The Mole

    The Mole Member

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    The thing about haskap is that you don't eat them raw, you make jam and pies. They are transcend ant that way lol. I grow them locally sold varieties in my backyard and after the first year they take off and produce well. I have 8 plants and will find more spots to tuck in a few more plants. I'm also going to purchase varieties bred by the U of S to try here and on our property at Lac des Roches east of 100 Mile House. Dont dismiss these berries because of their tart raw flavour. They are well worth growing for jams and pies as I mentioned.
     
  11. The Mole

    The Mole Member

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    I neglected to add that my garden is in North Delta BC. I have a bunch of plants to a friend in Port Coquitlam (~ 4 yr old plants) and they got a good harvest this past spring. The harvest is an early one, just before straw serried. Yum!
     
  12. Naxossa

    Naxossa Member

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    I am beginning to get the notion that we are not exactly talking about the same berry. Or maybe the growing conditions. We have only last year picked our first crop from part of an acre of haskaps. There was a definite difference between the pollinators (Berry Blue) and the improved ones (Borealis, Tundra and 9-15, now called Indigo Gem. The berry Blue was tart (not sour because there is a little bit of a bitter aftertaste. However none of the other three could be called sour or tart, provided there were ripe, meaning fully coloured all the way through. There is a little bit of a bite which makes them fresh tasting. Don't know if anything has to do with the amount of sunshine. We do get a lot of sun in mid to eastern southern Ontario. We also have to cover them because waxwings, orioles, and robins will hang themselves in the bird netting in order to get at them.
    So it might very well be possible that they are not the berry of choice for the PNW. If you can grow blueberries, more power to you. This one is not to supplant blueberries, just give a different choice and a little earlier in the season. For us the big plus is, the blossoms can handle a fair bit of late frost.
     
  13. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    Given my skepticism was of the jilted variety (as in: honeyberry--Lonicera caerulea--why'd you let me down? Where's the honey tinged sweetness?), I'll give Indigo Gem a try and see if it is a cultivar thing, or a climate thing. I'd really like to taste a sweet one, and re-kindle my enthusiasm for it.
     
  14. Naxossa

    Naxossa Member

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    Woodschmoe depending what your idea of sweet is, you may never find a sweet haskap as in sweet as honey. When people tell me, wow this is a nice sweet strawberry, I usually keep my mouth shut, but there are no really sweet strawberries, or really sweet raspberries, or really sweet oranges for that matter. Blueberries are neither sweet nor tart or sour. They miss that little bit of acidity which is needed for making wine for instance. It is the total absence of acidity which people consider sweet, which in fact it isn't. Brix levels of blueberries rarely go over 12 Brix. Saskatoons can go up to 16 to 18 Brix. Yet neither tastes tart, whereas our tart cherries, measuring 18 Brix this summer did have that touch of tartness. Even our sweetest (Crimson Passion) with Brix levels of over 20. still have that little bit of acidity that gives a little bite. In other words, it depends probably more on the level of acids in the fruit than the sugar levels. Haskap will always -I hope- have enough acidity to give that little bit of a bite. Not puckering, then the fruit is not ripe. With our grapes sometimes one week makes the difference between sour and sweet, yet even at 24 Brix our grapes (Frontenac) have a little bite, but the sugars easily overpower it. If you cannot get that lovely freshness (sweet with a little bite) from Indigo gem, you may not get the sun or heat units we get. Or Saskatchewan gets for that matter.
     
  15. pinenut

    pinenut Active Member 10 Years

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    Call me old fashioned, but I measure sweet by whether or not you have to add sugar to eat 'em for breakfast. Wild Yukon straw/rasp/blue and even crow berries are sweet!
     
  16. vitog

    vitog Contributor 10 Years

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    I see that honeyberry plants are now more available than ever at local plant centers; so I'd like to get some updated opinions on their productivity and the taste of current varieties for the PNW. My raspberry plants have been producing more fruit than we can consume in a year, and I'd like to replace some of them with a berry that tastes better after freezer storage. Raspberries have the strange property of tasting stronger and tarter after freezing so that the thawed fruit needs added sugar to make it palatable. My goal is to reduce my consumption of sugar and ice cream when eating stored berries from the garden. There is a large amount of net info re Haskaps from Bob Bors at the University of Saskatchewan and Maxine Thompson at Oregon State University, but some recent local opinions may be more helpful. So, is anyone growing productive, tasty Honeyberries locally? I'd expect the Oregon varieties to be more suitable for our climate.
     
  17. Naxossa

    Naxossa Member

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    I will keep reiterating and repeating: comparing haskaps with blueberries is an absolutely useless concept. It is a berry that may have a distantly familiar taste like blueberry or raspberry but is neither. The first Canadian ones are still great for the home user, especially the Borealis, which hides the berries. Most people don't wait long enough for the berries to really ripen. The Borealis is later than the Indigo series. They have to be fully coloured all the way through. The newest varieties may be a bit sweeter and larger but I certainly wouldn't want them sweeter than the Aurora's. They are excellent freezers. Much better than strawberries. You can freeze them without any sugar or other additives. We are going to have about three acres in production this year and hope that this year we will have enough for the late comers too. The last two years we have always run out before the end of the season.
     
  18. vitog

    vitog Contributor 10 Years

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    Thanks, Naxossa; are you growing Haskaps in Foxboro, Ontario? If so, your observations may not be totally relevant to the southwest coast of BC.

    Woodshmoe, have you tried the Indigo Gem variety yet?
     

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