First Fruit of the Season

I had posted about the first strawberries of the season but they weren’t the first fruit of the season.  In fact, while our strawberries do have fruit on them, they are still some time from being ripe.  Today I harvested the first fruit of the season – haskap and honeyberry aka edible blue honeysuckle.

Full set of 2011 edible blue honeysuckle pictures.

These are varieties of edible blue honeysuckle.   In 2008, when we were putting together an order from T&T Seeds, I noticed something called a “polar honeysuckle collection” which included plants called Polar Night and Polar Jewel.  The description said that they were hardy to -40ºC.  For $14.95 for the pair, it seemed like a low-risk idea.  We didn’t really have a home for them because the garden was in its early days and thus in a constant state of change as good ideas turned out to be less so in practice.   Nonetheless, that first year we got one or two berries that had an interesting blueberry-ish taste.  They weren’t sweet but they weren’t tart either.  And they were juicy.

My interested was piqued and I started googling to see exactly what it was that we had bought.  That led me to the University of Saskatechewan’s haskap.  I was intrigued by what I found.  Not only were the plants hardy to  -40ºC but the flowers were hardy to -7ºC which meant that a late frost would not wipe out the crop.  And they ripened it early June ahead of strawberries.   In 2009, we ordered from DNAGardens and Prairie Plant Systems.   We still didn’t have a home for them but we had some spots in our raised beds and stuck them here and there.   In some of the plants, the growth was almost instant upon planting so I decided to take some cuttings.   I had six of the eight take and in 2010, some of these plants fruited.  In the fall of 2009, we built 40′ long raised beds and the haskap and honeyberry had permanent homes.

This year has been spectacular for these plants – lots of flowers led to lots of fruit – 3½ pints picked today with perhaps twice that still to ripen.  We’ll freeze each picking and make jam with the total harvest.  And from what I understand, this is only the beginning: while haskap and honeyberry start to produce fruit quite early, it’s not until around year 5 that they are fully productive and we might see 5-7 kilos (11-15 lb) per plant!!!  While there are a number of sellers in Canada, prices have more than doubled since we purchased our plants two years ago as it appears that supply is having a difficult time keeping up with demand.  And demand is likely to explode if this plants make it to super-food status.  So buy early or search for someone who is willing to start cuttings for you.

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12 Responses to First Fruit of the Season

  1. Eden says:

    I heard that haskap need two varieties to cross-pollinate. Do nurseries sell them in pairs like that?

  2. Mike says:

    I sure have not had much luck getting stem cuttings to root off our honey berries…I might have to purchase a few more bushes. Glad to hear that yours are doing so well, the berries look great. Time and patience does pay off doesn’t it.:)

    • MikeH says:

      G’ morning Mike,

      Here’s some collected info on ebh propagation. Maybe there’s something in there that will help. I’m trying layering branches this year. You bend the branch down and get part of it under the soil. Place a rock on top to hold in under the soil. The part of the branch that’s under the soil needs to have a nick in it to encourage root growth. I just bend the branch until it start to break a bit. Apparently climbing honeysuckle can be propagated that way. Whether it works for this variety, time will tell. So yes, it’s all about time – Mother Nature’s time, that is, and patience.

      Mike

      • Mike says:

        Thanks! I never thought about layering them and will have to give that a go. I’ll let you know if I have luck with this method. We will also, hopfully, be trying to start some from seed.

  3. I have a few of these plants. One, a Borialis Haskap, I got from a friend, here in Ontario ;-)
    I have five smaller ones that I started from seed last year in the late summer. I had about a doz seedlings last fall. I planted all but three in the garden to winter over and only two came back this spring. Three were grown indoors all winter under lights and did very well. I have more seeds planted that are just now showing signs of sprouting. I am hoping for a good crop in a few years!

  4. Matt and Cynthia Ziemer says:

    HI folks, this is Matt and Cynthia Ziemer of Heritage Acres Organics in Quesnel BC. We have about 350 Honeyberry plants. 4 different varieties; Blue Belle, Berry Blue, Cinderella and Svetlana. Mine are 5 years old and with all the moisture here in Quesnel BC this spring they have all pretty much doubled in size. We are getting our first significant crop this year and are seeing up to about a lb per plant. It is important to let them ripen fully(no purple/pinky undertone but a royal blue undertone) and then they are amazingly delicious. We have been selling dixie cup samples for a dollar at the Quesnel Farmers Market and they have been a huge hit with the patrons. We have grown ours organically and have had no issues. If fully ripe all the varieties are very tasty and surprisingly the pollinator Svetlana to this point seems the best tasting, the best shape and the most evenly ripening. I planted mine on a mild south west slope with some parts of the orchard quite shaded. The shaded plants have grown the most in size but are a little down on fruit production so I will lighten up the shade a bit in that corner by trimming back some trees. I am looking for some info on how much growers are getting for Honeyberries per lb.

  5. Matt says:

    Thanks Mike I will check out those sites for prices. I understand the difference between Haskap and Honeyberries as encouraged by Dr. Bob Bors is that Honeyberries are the Russian varieties and Haskap are the varieties crossed with the Japanese varieties.

    • MikeH says:

      Hi Matt,

      The edible blue honeysuckle name game is really confusing and about to get more confusing. What Bob Bors has released (Borealis, Tundra, Indigo Gem, Indigo Treat, and Indigo Yum have no Japanese, ie, Hokkaidō genetic material in them. They are Russian/Kuril Island hybrids. (See page 3). Bob named them Haskap because he was targeting the Japanese market. A more accurate name would have been Hybrid Honeyberries. First of all, they will not come true from seed which qualifies them as hybrids.. And secondly, much of the genetic material that he used came from One Green World who introduced them from Russian. Since the release of the five named varieties, his breeding programme has incorporated Hokkaidō genetic material but no plants have been yet released.

      Dr. Maxine Thompson, professor emeritus from Oregon State University, has a breeding programme using Hokkaidō genetic material. This variety is known as haskap (Lonicera caerulea var. emphyllocalyx). She has released plants to at least one grower in the US under the name Haskap.

      Regards,
      Mike

  6. annmarie says:

    Hi
    I am new to this plant. We just purchased a Polar Jewel Honeyberry prior to any research, hence my questions.
    What plant should I buy to cross pollinate with this honeysuckle for an abundance supply of fruit? How close should they be planted in relation to one another?
    Thanks for any help in advance

    • MikeH says:

      Polar Jewel is a variety that was renamed when it was imported into Canada so I’m not sure what it originally was called. Polar Jewel was sold in combo with Polar Night which suggests that they were not related and would pollinate each other. The plant breeding programme at the University of Saskatchewan has released a number of cultivars that are quite good and improvements on the Polar series as well as other Russian cultivars. Based on our experience, any of them would cross pollinate Polar Jewel.

      Regards,
      Mike

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