Thursday, July 21, 2016

Haskap Berry Frustration

The haskap or honeyberry is presently not well known in the U.S.  If you're interested, I wrote a blog post last year (you can find it here) on their origin and desirable qualities.  Papa Pea and I are always eager to pursue any edible product we can grow right here on our own little homestead that offers us high nutritional value so when we came across the haskap berry plant which is purported to have a higher antioxidant value than the blueberry (which we already grow and enjoy), we decided to try them.  Besides that, we're always ready to try a fruit that can be grown in our short-season location.

This is the first year our four-year old haskap berry plants have produced enough berries to constitute a real harvest.  The bushes are lush, beautiful and healthy.  However, our enthusiasm for the berries is . . . waning.

The berries need about ten days more to fully mature after they turn a dark blue color.  An indication of the ripeness of the berry is when you see a few under the bush which have fallen off.  I think we waited at least three weeks, rather than ten days, before this happened.  We kept taste testing a berry here and there to see if the flavor was changing.  Nope.  Just as terribly sour (picture ugly face here) as when first sampled.

Supposedly they mature before strawberries grown in the same location.  Not ours.  Our strawberries came in about four weeks ago and our haskap berries were harvested just this week.

The information we keep trying to gather seems conflicting.  One source says they bear over a 2-3 week period.  Another says a desirable characteristic of the berries is that they all ripen at once making harvest much easier.  How's that for creating confusion?

Picking the haskap berries is not clean and easy.  The berries are mostly "hidden" down inside the leafy bushes, and it's a game of hunt and seek to find them all.  They are very wet and juicy (no, the bushes weren't wet when we picked them) resulting in fingers and hands stained with juice after picking.


The cleaning task is much more difficult than with blueberries.  Removing any remaining stems (of which there were many) results in half the insides of the berry being pulled out with the stem.  The juice stains any cloth with which it comes into contact.  Really stains.  Even commercial stain remover didn't begin to remove the stain.  Fortunately, the stain did come off my hands!

The final taste test:  Still sour and unpleasant.  I could never eat a bowl of haskaps the way I do a bowl of blueberries.  


We got somewhere between two and three quarts of the little undesirable sour pods of poison gems from our three bushes.  I froze them for use this winter.  Would they make a delightfully delectable jam?  Perhaps.  Our daughter who has made some wonder cordials with fruit in the past wants to take them for that use or possibly to try a small batch of wine.  In some of the information I've seen, they are touted as making excellent wine.  Could be, but I'm reserving judgment on that until I can see (or taste) the proof in the pudding.

Well, as they say, there are no failures in gardening, only experiments.  To date that's all I have to report on our experiment in growing haskap berries!

18 comments:

  1. This was interesting. I had read so much good about them---two or three years ago, but it's like they disappeared off the radar. For all I had read, they were going to replace the blueberry. Guess not. So, are you giving them another year ?? I guess now I'm sort of glad I didn't try them, but I feel bad that you did and aren't happy with them. Bummer on that.
    Hope all else is well. Things are busy busy here.........and super hot out as well. Did I tell you how much I hate summer????????????

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    1. Sue - We will definitely leave them in for another year or two. Could it have been just a bad year for ripening them? We've had plenty of moisture and heat.

      Our temperature this afternoon is 92 degrees! Reminds me so much of Illinois summers. Remember those? ARRRGH! I'm m-e-l-t-i-n-g . . . :o/

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  2. Oh, how frustrating! After four years of coddling them along, too. Well, if they make a good wine, then it's not effort wasted. But, heck.

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    1. Susan - Hey, IF they do make good wine, I'll take back all my grumping and groaning and the bad things I've said about them. We'll just drink our antioxidants then!!!

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  3. Ah, I'm disappointed now as I bought a bush this year. Apparently they developed them in Siberia and there is hundreds of varieties so maybe you have a bad one?
    I've added ballon berries and wine berries this year to my fruit selection. unfortunately I'm loosing out on fruit at the moment as my fruit garden is so over grown I can't get in there.

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    1. Kev - If I'm understanding correctly, you have to plant at least two different varieties together in order for them to pollinate. We have two Borealis and one Berry Smart Blue. Good luck with your berry efforts!

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  4. That's a shame, little pods of poison and a little (lot of) sugar can make a nice simple syrup?

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    1. Rain - I think the operative words there would have to be "lot of sugar!" :o)

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  5. We were looking into these berries so I will continue to follow your information. Do you think they could be added to other fruit as in fruit cocktail that you can?

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    1. Fiona - Other people seem to rave about the haskaps so I'm not sure at this point why ours haven't turned out better than they have. All I can do is share our experience and hope I don't totally discourage others who might love them! When I can fruit I always use a light syrup and I don't truly know if the haskaps would lose enough of what we perceive as "sourness" to be enjoyable when combined with other fruits and canned in a light syrup. Also, they seem so "fragile" and "juicy" that I wonder if they would hold their shape when canned. A lot we have to learn about them yet!

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  6. You have put a whole lot of effort into these berries, but they don't seem to be returning the love. I just don't have the patience , so I'd likely dig it up and plant something predictably good there, like raspberries. Maybe the wine will turn out to be good. -Jenn

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    1. Jenn - I don't have the patience my dear husband does and I would be more like you and dig the darn things up . . . but he is always willing to hang in there to give all things a good chance. We do have a raspberry patch (which gives us more raspberries than we really need) and blueberries so I don't think I'd miss these haskap bushes. But IF they made good wine . . . that might be another story!

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  7. I've never heard of those 'sour pods of poison'...haha! That made the whole post! Seriously though, how disappointing. I can imagine the taste. I find the blueberries to be like that sometimes. My neighbor shares hers with me and quite honestly they aren't fit to eat raw. Maybe it's because she has been picking them early in order to keep the birds from eating them all. Baking with them is a lot tastier.

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    1. Laurie - I think your neighbor may well be harvesting her berries before they're fully mature. (I suppose it could be the particular variety, too, though.) I love, love, love a dish of ours raw with cream. Mmmm-mmm!

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  8. My two bushes are four years old, also. The berries have never been sweet no matter when I pick them. Just figure they're jam and jelly material.
    Honey berry is perhaps a misnomer.

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    1. So do you find you have to use more sugar when making jams or jellies with them? Or do you just follow your basic berry recipe and it comes out palatable?

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  9. Like you said sometimes you try, then just wait for results :)

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    1. LHinB - We'll keep them for another year or two (more if they turn out to make decent wine!), but at this point I sure can't call them a better blueberry!

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