What is a haskap?

Haskap plants are a member of the honeysuckle family or genus species lonicera caerulea. The haskap plant originated on a northern island of Japan, Hokkaido and the seeds were carried by migrating birds to the Russian Kuril Islands. Haskap berries have been enjoyed in Japan and Russia for centuries and are referred to as the berry of youth, longevity and good eyesight. The word “haskap” was derived from the word “hasukappu” which is what the indigenous people of Hokkaido, the Ainu, named them and it means “little present at the end of the branch”. 

Other common names for haskaps are:                                                                                    -blue honeysuckle                                                                                                      -sweet berry honeysuckle                                                                                          -honeyberry 

What does a haskap berry look like?

The haskap berry looks like an elongated blueberry with a dark crimson flesh. The berries are about one inch long and the seeds are so small they are hard to see. 

What does a haskap berry taste like?

Yummy! People most often compare the taste of the haskap berry to a combination of blueberry and raspberry. The taste has also been compared to elderberry, and blackberry. It is sweet yet tart. 

What are the health benefits?

Haskap berries are high in Vitamin C and A, fiber, and potassium. Specifically they have three times the antioxidants of a blueberry, more vitamin C than an orange and almost as much potassium as a banana. They are extremely high in antioxidants such as Anthocyanins, Poly Phenols, and Bioflavanoids.

Haskap berries are also high in other flavonoids such as rutin, epicatechin, ferulic Acid, genistic acid, caffeic acid, protocatechuic acid, ellagitannins, quercetin, and many others. 

The following table compares the nutritional content of the haskap berry to other popular berries. 

 

 haskap_chart

 

 

History of the haskap

The first haskap industry came about in Japan in the 1940’s with the harvesting of the wild haskaps and commercial orchards were planted in the 1970’s as the demand for the berry grew. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Russian scientists discovered haskap berries have many health benefits. It is claimed the Russians made a special haskap berry drink for their space astronauts and called it “the King of Drinks”.

Haskap berry seeds were introduced into Canada from Russia in the 1920’s. However, indigenous varieties of L. caerulea can be found growing in most provinces in Canada. ‘Georges Bugnet’ and ‘Julia Bugnet’ were the first varieties developed in Beaver Lodge, Alberta by the Agricultural Research Station. 

North American breeders have more recently developed higher yielding and tastier varieties. The developers include Dr. Bob Bors at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Maxine Thompson at Oregon State University, and Lidia Delafield of Berries Unlimited.