On Wednesday of this week we harvested our haskap berries. We found it hard to tell when they were ripe by depending on the taste. (That would be sour.) But, supposedly, they are different than other berries and ripen all at the same time and since a few were starting to fall to the ground we figured it was time.
The berries were abundant this year. We picked 5-3/4 quarts from our three 4-year old bushes. They're not easy to pick because the berries grow at random spots on the branches, sometimes deep within the heavily leafed bushes. And they are squishy. Even when they come off easily, they are soft and juicy. And the juice stains. Trust me. I know.
Cleaning them is much more time consuming than cleaning blueberries. Many had the stems still attached. Because they're juicy, your hands get wet and sticky and leaves or any other debris ends up in the picking container. (Isn't this fun? Shall I go on?) The above shows some of the berries after I cleaned them.
They're more oval than a blueberry and bigger. Kinda funny shaped.
I decided to take one quart and make a pie. I used my tried and true blueberry pie recipe which calls for 1/3 cup of flour as thickener.
Taking the pie out of the oven, I noticed the juice showing between the strips of lattice crust seemed quite "liquidy."
After letting the pie cool completely (hoping the filling would firm up), we sampled it. Runny? Oh, yeah.
The flavor? Tart. Not as sour as eating the raw berries, but tart. I'm not sure I could have eaten a whole piece without ice cream on top to cut the tartness. I can only state that the pie has not disappeared as quickly as pies usually do around our house.
Just to give the haskaps a fair trial, I made a batch of jam.
A batch of runny jam. Too thin to put on bread, but we'll try it one of these mornings on waffles or pancakes. You know, like syrup. How's the flavor of the jam? Tart. And almost medicinal. Huhn. I'm not at all sure using it as a syrup is going to fly either.
Oh, I almost forgot. We tried dehydrating a tray of them. Hours and hours and hours (maybe it was days) later, they were still wet. And tasted slightly bitter. Almost as if they were burned . . . but still wet. We tossed them.
So what is all the hype about haskap berries being the best thing since sliced bread? Why did we plant some bushes in the first place?
Well, they have been proven to have a huge amount of antioxidants in them.
They have a tradition of medicinal (aha!) uses in Japan. They are five times more potent in polyphenals than blueberries. (Polyphenals are believed to protect against some common health problems and certain effects of aging. Yay!)
Haskaps have the highest anthocyanin content of any fruit, they're high in Vitamin C, A, fiber and potassium. (Anthocyanins have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. All good.) But what good is all this if you have to force yourself to stuff them down your gullet? Sigh.
Papa Pea and I both have a feeling they would make good wine. It certainly would be an attractive color. (Wonder if it would stain your teeth? Oh, crickey.) Dear daughter of ours has been wanting to try making a cordial from them. I've assured her I have a nice amount squirreled away in the freezer for her to do just that.