Haskap berries taste great and are incredibly versatile. They can be used fresh and in processed products such as pastries, jams, juice, wine, ice cream, yogurt, sauces, and candies.
Highly prejudiced Haskap growers claim Haskap makes better muffins than blueberries because the skin disintegrates when cooked. Amateur wine makers have claimed it to be the fruit most like grapes for making wine, but with a difference. Haskap wine has a hint of spiciness with some similarities to cherry wine.
When frozen fruit is placed in the mouth it melts away. The skins simply disintegrate which has caused some excitement amongst ice cream and smoothie makers. The fruit also turns dairy products into a bright purple-red.
Its juice has a considerably more intense color and flavor than cranberry and blueberry juice.
LaHave Forests and Haskap Central recommends the use of three varieties, two cultivars ‘Tundra’ and ‘Indigo Gem’ and the Russian blue Honeysuckle pollinator ‘Smart Berry Blue’.
These varieties are referred to as ‘Haskap’ because the Japanese cooperators of the University of Saskatchewan considered them to be of high enough quality to be used in the Japanese market. Also, these varieties have ancestors from the Kuril Islands, which were once part of Japan.
‘Tundra’ may be the variety best suited for commercial production as its fruits are firm enough to withstand commercial harvesting and sorting, yet tender enough to melt in the mouth. Firmness is a rather rare trait especially for large fruited blue honeysuckles. Ranking at almost the top for flavor and fruit size, the shape of its fruit was deemed acceptable to the Japanese market. In addition, it has a dry picking scar meaning that the berries do not “bleed” from the picking wound.
‘Indigo Gem’ is high yielding and has an interesting trait in that some feel that it has a slightly chewy texture when eaten fresh, possibly desirable in processing. It has a smaller berry than Tundra and is relatively firm. It has a dry picking scar but has been susceptible to powdery mildew.
The ‘Indigo Gem’ had almost twice as much fruit by weight than other cultivars. This selection also has a trait rare in Haskap; its berries are a bit chewy when eaten fresh. This characteristic may make it desirable for some processed products as chewy fruits hold their shape better when cooked.
Smart Berry Blue
This is an older variety that was bred in Czech Republic. It pollinates well and is also one of the fastest growing and tallest varieties, producing numerous flowers and therefore is an excellent pollinator. Smart Berry Blue’s berries are smaller than other varieties, with a tubular shape. Although, it offers a relatively high yield of berries, which are more tart than other varieties.
Haskaps will thrive in a well-structured fertile soil with a good drainage. It can grow in a Ph range of 4,5 to 7,5. Also, protection from prevailing winds, particularly from the northwest during winter, is highly recommended to minimize winter injury. Although, this is seen as less of a problem in Nova Scotia.
Ideally the soil should have a ratio of 1 bacteria to 5 fungi, although a balanced mineral soil is also an important factor for yields as it determines the berries brix (natural sugar) content.
Haskap requires cross-pollination between unrelated varieties blooming at the same time for fruit production. The ideal planting ratio when using the ‘Smart Berry Blue’ as the pollinator is 1:3. In a garden environment, mixing the varieties within the row is recommended, whereas in a commercial environment the rows themselves can be mixed.
Like other perennial species, it is recommended that Haskap be planted in spring as soon as soil conditions and temperatures are appropriate, usually early May/June in Nova Scotia. Row spacing is driven largely by the equipment that will be used in the orchard, however 3 to 3.5ft spacing between plants is recommended. Bushes should be planted 1-2 inches deeper than their original depth. This helps establish a deeper root system.
Haskap has few pests. It does not appear to be a favourite of deer and insect problems are minimal at this time. Birds however, love Haskap and netting and/or some other methods of bird control will be necessary. The only disease reported at this time is powdery mildew and this is usually seen later in the season, well after harvest is complete. With Compost Tea, this issue can be controlled.
Annual pruning is recommended with Haskap, either in late winter or early spring when bushes are still dormant. Thin out older less productive central branches when bushes become too dense. Never remove more than 25% of a bush in a season.
Haskap will fruit early but does not generally produce any significant amount of fruit until 3-4 years after planting. Yields of 7kg/16lbs per bush have been reported after 5 years, although LaHave Forests expects an average of 3.5kg/8lbs to be realistic for a 4 year old bush and bushes should be expected to stay productive for 30+ years. Be patient when approaching harvest – berries will turn purple-blue but should not be picked until the inside flesh is purple (not green).
Typically Haskap are harvested the first week of June in Nova Scotia. Some varieties can be shaken off, but mechanical harvesting is also an option. The same harvesting equipment used for highbush blueberries can be applied to the Haskap Berry.
The harvesting technique used must be linked to the end product of the berries; hand picking results in less damage and therefore a higher quality berry, so is preferable for those markets such as wine that require a superior product.
Further Information and Models:
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