Haskap Berries what is all the hype?

If you have reached this webpage your are obviously wondering what is all of this stuff about Haskap berries? Well, they really are not a new to us berry. They have been around for a very long time, but the better tasting plant varieties are relatively new to North America. The Japanese have been consuming this berry for hundreds of years.

The Haskap plant is also known as Blue Honeysuckle, Honeyberry, Sweet Berry Honeysuckle, and Swamp Fly Honeysuckle. They are found growing naturally in northern boreal forest areas, typically in the transition areas between forest and wet areas, in North America, Russia and specifically the Kuril Islands in Japan. They have also been found growing mountainous regions.

In Atlantic Canada we have a native species called Acadian Honeysuckle, but the berries are not all that great when compared to the commercially grown varieties.

So why do we, as Canadians, call this plant Haskap rather than Honeysuckle, or Honeyberry? The University of Saskatchewan have used the term Haskap to describe the varieties that they have developed from their fruit program by Dr. Bob Bors. From there the name has stuck, and our US counterparts quite often refer to the U of S plants as Canadian Haskap.

Dr. Maxine Thompson has actually developed varieties in the US, where all of the parent plants were Japanese varieties.

The University of Saskatchewan has likely the largest collection of Haskap plants. Their fruit program has been breeding Haskap varieties for the North American commercial market, and they continue to develop newer varities.  For more information please see this link: http://www.fruit.usask.ca/haskap.html .

What does a Haskap berry look like?

The haskap berry looks like an elongated blueberry with a dark crimson flesh. The berries vary in size, and shape. The different varieties are named based on the berry size, shape, and the how the plant develops.

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. The taste also varies between varieties, and as new varieties are developed this is one of the key items for new plant selection. The seeds are small and not noticeable when consumed.

Health benefits from Haskap berries?

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. 

Now the big one…what are Haskap good for? For starters they are excellent in smoothies. Below is a smoothie made with mostly spinach, protein powder, and about 60 grams of Haskap berries.

As you can see the above smoothie has a very purple Haskap colour. The taste of the Haskap in this particular smoothie is strong enough that you do not taste the spinach. No sugar is needed whatsoever to enjoy them in this fashion.

However, there is word of warning. Haskap berries are not always harvested at the correct time. What this means is that a grower has failed to harvest them when they are fully ripe. A Haskap berry can look great on the outside, but can be very green and sour on the inside.

If you are purchasing Haskap berries, and they are fresh, try one out. If you get a sour, greenish taste they are definitely not ripe. When Haskap berries are not ripe they will not make a good product nor will they taste very good. A fully ripened Haskap berry should be purple throughout, and have a fairly strong flavour, with a bit of zing from the high amounts of vitamin C.

Haskap berries can be enjoyed like any other berry, from frozen to dried. They also make great jams, spreads, additions to other products, and flavouring for liqueurs.