Friday, May 29, 2015

Haskap, Honeyberry or Zhimolost?

Our haskap berry bushes we planted three years ago this spring look as though they're going to present us with a (small) bushel of berries this year.

What is a haskap berry?  It resembles a blueberry, a fruit with which we are all much more familiar.  The plant has been grown in Russia and Japan for centuries and is just recently gaining some popularity in the United States.  Some folks know it by the name of "honeyberry."  My bit of research tells me it is known in Japan as the "haskap," in Russia as "zhimolost," and more frequently the "honeyberry" here in our country.  We started calling ours haskap bushes and that name seems to have stuck for us.

The shape of the dark blue berry is more oval than a blueberry, measuring somewhere around 1" to 1-1/2" in length.  They are touted as being delicious and very good for you.

What's the flavor of the berry?  It's been described as . . . well, it's been described as hard to describe.  Some say it's a zingy combination of blueberry and raspberry with a hint of elderberry.  Others say it reminds them of blackberries, cherries or even grapes.  (How can you miss with those flavors exploding in your mouth?)

Supposedly, the burst of the juicy flavor you experience when eating a haskap berry has been compared to the taste of a fine wine.  (I'll drink to that.)  Matter of fact, the berries are highly recommended for wine making because of their deep, intense color and high level of natural tannins.  (Get that wine making equipment out and ready.)

The high levels of Vitamin C and potassium, plus nearly three times the number of antioxidants of an antioxidant-loaded (wild) blueberry, add to the remarkable health properties of the fruit.  (They're sounding better all the time, aren't they?)

Haskap bushes seem to be happiest planted in Zones 2-4 (is this perfect for us up here near the tundra or what?), but it's possible to grow certain varieties in Zones 5-9.

They do require cross-pollination because the male and female reproductive parts develop at different times so it's recommended planting two to five different varieties together.  We've started with three bushes, two are the Borealis variety and one is a Berry Smart Blue.

The bushes fruit approximately two weeks before strawberries (and quite a bit before blueberries) when all grown in the same climate.  They produce for a two to three week period depending on the variety.

Most varieties grow to be an average of four to eight feet tall, so this is no little shrub we're talking about.  (I'm definitely going to have to use a ladder for harvesting.)  The bushes reach maturity at five to seven years and can produce berries for 30 years or more.  (Now that's my kinda plant.)  They can bear heavily producing five to nine pounds of delicious fruit per mature plant.

Because they seem to prefer a cooler region in which to grow, they can flower at 25 degrees Fahrenheit and are cold hardy to -55 degrees Fahrenheit. (Looking better and better for our little frozen-nine-months-of-the-year [not quite] homestead all the time.)

Weed control is essential and the shallow roots like to be mulched during the summer to prevent drying out.  Bumble bees are better pollinators than honey bees.  Fortunately, we do seem to have an ample amount of those big ol' bumble bees, but I'm sure our honey bees will be glad to help out in any way they can.

Haskap bushes need three to four years in the ground before producing any significant amount of fruit.  And it's true that this year, the third for our bushes, is the first year ours have had more than one or two blossoms showing.



Although this photo doesn't show the blossoms very well, many have developed on all three of our plants this year.



To illustrate how far ahead the haskaps are compared to the blueberries, above is a picture of one of our blueberry bushes which isn't even leafed out nearly as much as the haskaps.

We obtained our haskap starts via an order from Honeyberry USA based in Bagley, Minnesota.  If you can't find haskap bushes at a local nursery, doing a quick Internet search will pop up many plant businesses listing them.

To say the least, we're pretty excited to see our haskap bushes looking so healthy and prolific this year.  Does this all make us eager to taste-test our own haskap berries?  You bet!

24 comments:

Sam I Am...... said...

I've never heard of them but what a find! I learn so much from reading blogs and I have been wanting to visit you for awhile now. So glad I did! I'll be back! Go haskaps!

Mama Pea said...

Sam I Am - I agree with you totally on how much we can learn from reading each others' blogs! We're all working toward a lot of the same goals . . . but can always learn something new or a better way of doing things! ;o] Thanks for commenting.

Sue said...

They sound hardy , but I'm a little concerned about how far along they are. We usually get another frost around June 4 (June 13 last year!) every year. I'd think if they are already bloomed out that they might be at risk. Thoughts?

Tracy H said...

I believe I have one of these that my father in law planted years ago. I find them quite sour/tangy, but definetly hardy! Unfortunately for some reason my cats like the dirt around it, so I'm constantly scooping poo away! blech.

Susan said...

Three bushes are now on The List!

Carolyn said...

Hardy to -55 degrees, hugh? So, I'm assuming that these WON'T be on our list for berry bushes to plant....you could probably hear them screaming from the heat all the way up there.

Sandy said...

Mama Pea,

I've never hear of these bushes. Interesting, if I were in a cooler climate I would be interested in planting a few.
I like the idea of making your own wine out of these berries. Can't wait to hear more about them when time to harvest the berries.

Sparkless said...

Such an interesting berry. Our blueberry bush, the lone surviving one, is in bloom. Looks like we'll get a handful of berries off it this year. We need to replant the ones that didn't make it and make sure the husband doesn't give them the wrong fertilizer again.

Mama Pea said...

Sue - Obviously you can't count me as any kind of a haskap expert since we all know printed info (regarding gardening) doesn't mean much until we have personal experiences in our own unique environments. But I'm assuming (yeah, I know, never assume :o]) that if they will flower at 25 degrees, frost won't impair the blossoms and to-be berries buds. It all may be interesting as we are forecast to get down to 28 tonight and the bushes do, indeed, have flowers on them . . . some petals have fallen and buds have developed. (Now remind me again why folks like you and me choose to live and garden in areas that get frosts in June . . . )

Mama Pea said...

Tracy H - Um, I don't know if I like the "quite sour/tangy" description of your berries! ;o] Stay tuned for a further installment of this whole situation!

Mama Pea said...

Susan - I know, I know! If they can grow them in Russia, why can't we???!!

Mama Pea said...

Carolyn - Ha! The bushes Sue, Susan and I plant(ed) will probably ask to spend summers with you!

Mama Pea said...

Sandy - After all the great info available about haskap bushes, Papa Pea and I are super-eager to get a taste of the ones we've planted. I know individual growing conditions (rain, warmth, frosts [!], etc. ) will all make a difference but we're just happy to see so many blossoms on our three bushes this year.

Mama Pea said...

Sparkless - Blueberries are so good for us that I hope you can replant some to keep your one, lonely bush company!

Tracy H said...

lol, I sure will Mama Pea!

Kristina said...

I'll be watching to see how you like them. I have never heard of them until now.

Sue said...

Cuz we're tough cookies, that's why!!! Never a dull moment in the north-LOL!
Keep me posted on how they did tonight.
Have a great weekend.
Oh, and quack quack. It's rained over 2 inches the past 2 days.......................

odiie said...

This is the third year for our honeyberries and the fruit is already set on them. They were already blooming before our last snow! Not a great time for pollination, a little short on bees then. I've heard that the longer you can leave them on the bush, the better the flavor.

Mark said...

That is a cool plant! Every now and again someone writes a post about a plant that's really optimal for their area. Most of those come from the southern states, but the best come from the northern states where the challenge is dealing with a short growing season. Thanks for this one!

Mama Pea said...

Kristina - If they are as good a flavor as blueberries, I'll be happy. Sure don't need to be growing any sour berries! Hubby has wanted to put in more of them ever since he started reading how full of antioxidants they are, but I've held him off until we get to taste them!

Mama Pea said...

odiie - You're going to get to taste yours before we will! I was thinking the same thing about bumble bees and/or honey bees not being around to pollinate them so very early in the season. Does that mean some years we'll have to be out there with our little paint brushes doing the job ourselves??!

Mama Pea said...

You're welcome, Mark! I sure do hope I can give a glowing report after we finally get to taste-test the berries. Finger crossed!

Leigh said...

Honeyberries are on my list but didn't make the cut this year. I'm hoping for next year, so I appreciate this post. Very intriguing plant.

Mama Pea said...

Leigh - I have no idea which varieties are more suitable to your location but I'm sure you could find out. Even though we had frost last night here in northern MN, our three bushes (and blossoms and berry buds) look fine today. After the three year wait to taste-test them, I sure am going to be either elated with the purported WONDERFUL flavor or really bummed if they are sour . . . or ho-hum in flavor! ;o]