QUESTION #1 (Always!): What do Haskap berries taste like? ANSWER: Most researchers, propagators, and growers respond by comparing Haskap flavor to other well-known fruit, such as…it is the color of a blueberry, but tastes like a combination of blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry, with hints of black current and an underlying elderberry aroma…a description worthy of a wine connoisseur! To me, it is not a matter of flavor, but of taste sensation that we receive from the taste buds on our tongues. It is the only berry with a Citrus ‘Zing’! When you bite into an orange, you seek the sensory perception of both sweet and sour, a Citrus “Tang” that even a child can identify. That’s Haskap…the Berry with a Citrus ‘Zing’!
QUESTION #2: Where does the name “Haskap” come from? ANSWER: (English) Canada has chosen the name Haskap, based on the word “Hasukappu” given to the fruit by the Ainu, the indigenous people who inhabited the island of Hokkaido, Japan. It is generally interpreted as meaning “little present at the end of the branch”.
QUESTION#3: Can I presume there are other names for Haskap? ANSWER: You certainly can! French Canada has named them “Camerise”. The Russian name translates as “Blue Honeysuckle”. Americans (always the marketers) call them “Honeyberry”. Canadian botanists roaming the swamps of northern Canada once referred to them as “Swamp Fly Honeysuckle”, (which probably indicates why they became botanists and not salespeople). However, in scientific jargon, always refer to them as Lonicera caerulea.
QUESTION #4: That’s a lot of names! Are they found throughout the world? ANSWER: Actually, no. Not in the wild. Lonicera caerulea is circumpolar in the northern hemisphere, primarily near boreal forests, in wetland organic soils. (That said, they have no ability to “swim”.) However, they also grow wild in soils with high calcium content, in mountains and along coastlines of Asia and North America. The Japanese and Russian varieties were the only ones that were large and sweet enough to attract attention. Native Canadian varieties found to date, generally have fruit of insignificant size and poor taste, although some plants are very robust.
QUESTION #5: So where do the Haskap plants in Canadian orchards originate? ANSWER: The University of Saskatchewan (USASK) Fruit Program has bred and released 10 Haskap varieties, as of 2018, with a range of flavors (sweet to tangy to tart). Note that USASK does own the “Breeders Rights” to each of these Canadian varieties, and a small fee is charged for each plant purchased through private propagators. That fee is sent back to USASK for continued research into Haskap and the development of even more National varieties, suited to the climate, the soils, and the Canadian palette. To identify “Licensed USASK Propagators” visit: http://www.fruit.usask.ca/propagators.html
QUESTION #6: Other than the USASK bred Haskap, are there other varieties available? ANSWER: Yes, some of the Propagators that are licenced to sell the USASK varieties also handle the plants that originate from private researchers, who hold the “Breeders Rights” to their varieties. There are also a series of “generic” varieties, most originating in Russia many decades ago. These plants are readily available and are not controlled by Breeders Rights. Some of these are used for traditional cross-breeding to develop new varieties of Haskap. QUESTION #7: If Haskap can be grown in most parts on Ontario, what type of soil is best? ANSWER: Haskap has the ability to survive on almost every type of soil except those that are inundated by water in most seasons. These would be highly organic soils that would be suitable providing that the wetland itself was drained. (Think of the Holland Marsh, situated half way between Toronto and Barrie as an example.) Similarly, gravelly soils might allow Haskap growth in the spring, when snow melt provides the required moisture, but growth will stop for the year as the gravel dries out in the droughts of mid-summer. The plant should not die, but go into an early dormancy, and re-emerge the next spring…somewhat stunted. Between these two extremes, pretty well any soil will do!
QUESTION #8: The Answers above indicate that Haskap like organic soil. Is this correct? ANSWER: Typical Ontario “organic” soil, such as peats and muck soil seem to promote Haskap quite well, provided that they also contain significant calcium. The more common “mineral” soil tends to contain no more than 5-6% organic matter in most cases, found on farms that are mainly used for raising livestock. Haskap should grow well on these soils. However, if a farm was used to (continually) grow cereal crops, the soil organic content could drop to the 2-3% range, as determined by soil testing. A Haskap grower on these soils would want to increase the organic content in the meter wide ROW location, and mix it in well, prior to planting. There is no economic benefit to improving the organic content of the soil in the aisle. Just keep the aisle in permanent (mown) sod. Refer to the “Research” component of this website and pull up the NE Ontario 2013-14 Field Trial (Final Report) data. On page 5, (Table 1) you will find a comparison of Haskap growth in different soils.
QUESTION #9: Is increased fertilizer application superior to increasing the organic matter? ANSWER: Based only on the observations noted in the Field Research report (Question #8) the answer in NO…provided that the increased organic content came from manure! A trial done in the District of Temiskaming compared Haskap planted into a former lawn, with Haskap planted into a traditional farm garden located beside it. The soil at this farmstead is known to be New Liskeard Clay, which tends to be heavy and wet when there is no tile. The garden received annual allotments of dairy manure for decades, and measured an Organic Matter content of 16.9%. The adjoining lawn also received some dairy manure annually from over broadcasting of the actual garden area. This lawn was recorded at 7.2% organic matter, which was above average for this soil. Recognizing the probable lack of nutrition in the lawn section, the farmer applied commercial fertilizer prior to rototilling and subsequent planting of Haskap. The soil tests indicated that the garden area was significantly higher in the portions of Phosphorous, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, Manganese, Copper, Boron, and Sulphur, all attributed to the dairy manure applied. At projects end, the “Borealis” Haskap in the garden portion of the test site were considerably taller on average, than the ones planted into the former lawn. In addition, the farmer reported that the yield was very much greater from the plants that were growing in the well fertilized garden portion. A further analysis of Table 1 in the aforementioned report also indicates that all 5 sites where manure was applied provided the best sites for Haskap growth.