Honeysuckle Heaven

Some Honeysuckles are edible, some are toxic

Lonicera japonica: Sweet Treat

The honeysuckle family is iffy for foragers. It has edible members and toxic members, edible parts, toxic parts, and they mix and match. Some are tasty, some can stop your heart. So you really have to make sure of which one you have and which part is usable and how.

On the top of the common list is the Japanese Honeysuckle. It is the honeysuckle kids grew up with, picking the flowers for a taste of sweetness. Young leaves are edible boiled. In my native state of Maine there is the L. villosa, the Waterberry, some times called the Mountain Fly Honeysuckle, with edible berries. It is also sometimes mistakenly called L. caerulea (which is European.) Let me see if I can clear that up: If it refers to L. caerulea as edible it is usually L. villosa which is actually being identified (Waterberry.) If it is L. caerulea and toxic it is usually the L. caerulea in Europe that is being referred to. How the L. villosa in North America got referred to as L. caerulea is anyone’s guess. Anyway, the Waterberry berries are quite edible.

Blossoms have sweet nectar.

Among those that might be edible or come with a warning of try carefully are: L. canadensis, fruit; L. Henryi, flowers, leaves stems; L. venulosa, fruit.

There are about 180 species of honeysuckle, most native to the northern hemisphere. The greatest number of species is in China with over 100. North America and Europe have only about 20 native species each, and the ones in Europe are usually toxic. Taste is not a measure of toxicity. Some Lonicera have delicious berries that are quite toxic and some have unpalatable berries that are not toxic at all. This is one plant on which taste is not a measure of edibility. Properly identify the species.

Species in the genus are quite consistent. The leaves are opposite, simple, oval. Most loose their leaves in the fall but some are evergreen. Many have sweetly-scented, bell-shaped flowers with a sweet, edible nectar. The fruit can be red, blue or black berry, usually containing several seeds. In most species the berries are mildly poisonous, but a few have edible berries.

Adam Lonitzer, 1528-1586

While the flowers are a popular nectar source for bees and butterflies L. japonica is considered an invasive weed throughout the warmer parts of the world, from Fiji to New Zealand to Hawaii. It was introduced to the United States about 200 years ago and because it has no natural enemies here has been spreading ever since. In my own yard it has proven to be very invasive, not only up but out. I’ve had a several year battle with it trying to cover a pear tree and a grape arbor.

Lonicera japonica is pronounced lah-NISS-ser-ruh juh-PAWN-nick-kuh. The genus was named after Adam Lonitzer (1528-1586) a German physician and botanist. Japonica means of Japan

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Lonicera japonica: A vine to 80 feet, twining, trailing, thin, sometimes rooting at nodes, reddish to brownish or purplish, younger parts hairy, often with thin woody bark on the lower stems. Leaves – opposite, with stems or without, leaves variously hairy above and below but typically densely hairy, no teeth, ovate-oblong, pointed tip, rounded to heart-shaped at base. Flowers white, drying to yellow, a tube, upper lip 4-lobed, bottom lip single-lobed, Stamens 4, filaments hairless, white, style white, stigma green. Fruits black, fleshy globes, not edible.

TIME OF YEAR: Leaves when in season, flowers May to July in northern climes, nearly year round where it is warm

ENVIRONMENT: Landscaping, naturalized in open woods, thickets, roadsides, railroads

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Nectar sucked off the ends of the flowers, young leaves boiled. In China leaves, buds and flowers are made into a tea but the tea may be toxic. Proceed carefully.

Family:

Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae)

Other Names:

Lonicera spp.

Origin and Distribution:

AMUR HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera maackii) and MORROW HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera morrowii) originated in Asia and were introduced into North America in the late 1800’s. TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera tatarica) was brought to North America in the mid-1700’s from its native Turkey and Russia. . Bush honeysuckles are well established throughout eastern and central U.S. and southern Canada. They are naturalized all over northern Ohio and in some scattered southern locations. They are found in open woods, wood edges, ravines, pastures, fencerows, and no-tillage fields. These shrubs grow best in fertile soils but they tolerate a wide range of soil types.

Plant Description:

Bush honeysuckles are large, semi-deciduous shrubs. Although they exhibit a variety of growth habits depending on environment, they generally are comprised of older lower branches from which arching, upward, younger branches arise. AMUR HONEYSUCKLE can grow 30 feet tall, height of TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLE usually does not exceed 10 feet, and MORROW HONEYSUCKLE is the shortest species in the group at less than 7 feet tall. Stems of these introduced species are hollow between nodes, which distinguishes them from less-invasive native honeysuckles that have solid pith. Another distinctive feature is their fruit, which is a red berry. Leaves are hairless or sparsely hairy and egg-shaped with smooth edges. The tubular flowers are generally pink or white fading to yellow and form in pairs at the end of stalks arising from leaf axils. Reproduction is by seeds.

  • Seedlings and Shoots:

    Seedlings and young shoots consist of oval, sparsely hairy leaves attached opposite to one another on reddish, erect stems.

  • Stems:

    Young stems have brown pith. Mature woody stems are hollow between the nodes. Bark is tan to light brown and often splits or peels lengthwise.

  • Leaves:

    Leaves are opposite (2 leaves per node), and rounded or nearly flat at the base. AMUR HONEYSUCKLE has dark green leaves that end in a sharp point at the tip and the underside of the leaf has hair along the veins. The leaf of TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLE lacks hair on the underside, and has oval, egg-shaped leaves. MORROW HONEYSUCKLE is consistently hairy on the underside and has oval, egg-shaped leaves.

  • Flowers:

    The 2-lipped flowers are comprised of 5 petals united into a tube that is less than 3/4 inch long. When young, flowers are white or pink and they become yellowish with age. Flowers form in pairs on stalks arising from the leaf axils of young branches. TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLE is pale pink and has long and glabrous flower stalks. AMUR HONEYSUCKLE has very short flower stalks, and has white, paired flowers that turn yellow with age. MORROW HONEYSUCKLE has long and pubescent flower stalks, and has white, paired flowers that turn yellow with age.

  • Fruits and Seeds:

    Fruits are juicy berries and most are red, although fruits of some cultivated forms may be yellow or orange.

Similar Species:

Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), trumpet honeysuckle (L.mpervirens), and wild honeysuckle (L. dioica) are native honeysuckles that have many features in common with bush honeysuckles except they grow as vines and not shrubs. Belle Honeysuckle (Lonicera x bella) is the hybrid product of the cross between MORROW and TATARIAN HONEYSUCKLES, sometimes designated as Lonicera morrowii x L. tatarica.

Biology:

Bush honeysuckles flower in May. Birds widely disseminate seeds after eating the fruits. Seedlings emerge throughout the growing season. Bush honeysuckles are non-native species that have been observed to displace native plants and change vegetation structure. Because of the potential to dominate a landscape, they are increasingly regarded as serious pests. Young shrubs less than 3 years old can be controlled by hand-pulling. The most effective control measure for older plants is to cut near ground level and apply herbicide to the freshly cut base.

Toxicity:

Bush honeysuckles may be mildly poisonous to children, likely due to toxins in the fruit.

Facts and Folklore:

  • An ointment made from the leaves of honeysuckles was used to remove freckles, whereas a bouquet of flowers was used to relieve asthma.

Sweet Honeysuckles

Photograph by Flickr user Bob Travis.

When I bought my first house, it came with a cement pond that the realtor didn’t even know about, because it was covered with honeysuckle vines. It took me months to remove all the honeysuckle, because the roots were thicker than my arm! In the US, Lonicera japonica is an invasive species that grows uncontrolled in moderate climates. It can cover buildings like kudzu, but it is also strong enough to strangle trees. However, when the blooms expose the sweet nectar inside, it can make the whole neighborhood smell like heaven.

Photograph by Flickr user Manuel M. Ramos.

There are about 180 species of honeysuckle plant, but most of those are native to Asia. Only a couple dozen belong naturally to Europe, India, and North America. The problem with honeysuckle is that travelers want to take the beautiful flowering vines away from their native habitat, and that’s when they become invasive species. Honeysuckles that know their place behave much better.

Photograph by Flickr user Anita Gould.

Bell’s honeysuckle (Lonicera x bella) is a hybrid with lovely pink flowers that was cultivated from a Siberian species (Lonicera tatarica) and an Asian species (Lonicera morrowii). This beauty has a price, as Bell’s honeysuckle has become an invasive species in Wisconsin, New England, and other parts of the U.S. The seeds are spread by birds that eat the honeysuckle’s red berries. The blooms can also be white, so it is sometimes difficult to identify.

Photograph by Flickr user Emma Cooper.

The blue-berried honeysuckle (Lonicera caerulea) is one of the few honeysuckle species that produces edible fruit. It is also known as a honeyberry bush. You might not even recognize it as a honeysuckle; it grows as a shrub instead of a vine. The plants are cultivated for food in Russia and Japan.

Photograph by Bob Bors.

The berries are blue and come in varied shapes, and the fruit inside is purplish-red when the berries are ripe. The flavor is said to be similar to that of raspberries or blueberries, depending on the variety.

Photograph by Flickr user InAweofGod’sCreation.

Trumpet vine (Lonicera sempervirens) is a honeysuckle species native to the eastern United States. If conditions are right, trumpet vine can grow out of control. They are sometimes planted to compete with the invasive L. japonica. The bright red flowers attract hummingbirds to the sweet nectar inside as well as insects.

Photograph by Flickr user Paul Williams.

The gold flame honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrottii) is a hybrid cultivar developed for its beautiful colors, which range through yellow and pink to orange, purple, and red. In warmer climates, these plants bloom all year round! Though it is a vining plant, gardeners who trim them can get them to grow like a shrub.

Photograph by Walter Siegmund.

Orange honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa) is native to the American West. It produces red berries that are edible, but are not widely used.

Photograph by Flickr user Hindrik Sijens.

Honeysuckles are beautiful and fragrant when they bloom, but as many species are invasive, you should always check and make sure any plants you buy are native to your country. A friend with an existing honeysuckle vine might let you take cuttings and propagate your own. If you live in an area where the common Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) grows, you can wait and they’ll probably invade your yard sooner or later. But beware: if you want them in your yard, you should to give them something sturdy to grow over besides trees. And a healthy plant will send out shoots to places you may not want them to go.

Photograph by Instructables member Falaco Soliton.

This is how you get at the honeysuckle nectar if you don’t have a hummingbird beak: Carefully pinch the bottom of the flower, not all the way through, just enough to cut the petals. Then gently pull the end, which should pull the style through. The style will scrape the nectar from the inside of the petal, and you’ll see a tiny drop of nectar, which is all sugar water with a tiny amount of fragrance. See more pictures of the process at Instructables. Keep in mind that the flowers of Lonicera japonica are also edible, in case you want to add a sweet tidbit to your salad. If you aren’t sure what type of honeysuckle you have, it’s best to avoid eating the flowers or berries, because many are toxic.

Honeysuckle almost demands a love/hate relationship, but in May and June, or whenever they bloom in your area, it’s hard to hate them.

Growing Honeyberry bushes, about Honeyberry

Choosing Cultivars

Growing Honeyberry plants and bushes is easier than you might imagine. The agricultural technology in many respects is similar to the cultivation of traditional fruit crops. Honeyberry cultivars (varieties) widely vary between theU.S.D.A.‘s agricultural hardiness zones. It is imperative that you choose a variety that not only is rated for your zone, but one that will produce the quality of honeyberries that you desire. Berries Unlimited offers a wide variety of honeyberry cultivar varieties for U.S.D.A. agriculture hardiness zones 2 thru 8. Zones 2-4 are the best to keep those plants happy, zones 5-9 are POSSIBLE to grow but it takes more of Your time to water them carefully through the hot season. If you are unsure of your hardiness zone, or just need help choosing which of the many fine varieties available to you, our staff will be more than happy to assist you in making the right choice. We can also help with buying honeyberry plants wholesale!

Site/Soil

One of the advantages of Honeyberries is that they can grow even in clay soil in wildness. They grow well in most soils, but the ideal environment would be loose and drained well fertilized with humus soil because the root system spreads close to the surface. The ideal ph would be 6.5, but the plants can grow in a wide range, ranging from 5 to 8.

Planting

When planting honeyberries your plants should be at least 5 to 7 feet apart because certain varieties can range up to 7 feet in diameter. To ensure that you have enough space in between rows, your rows should be at least 14 feet apart from center to center, so that you will not have trouble collecting berries and keeping up plants. When planting 2 to 4 year old honeyberries the size of the hole should be 10 to 12 inches in depth and 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Rows should be run South to North.

Mulching

Mulch will significantly increase honeyberries growth and yield. Decomposing mulch not only helps improve soil structure, but also aids in the nutrient uptake of a honeyberry bushes root system. Mulching maintains uniform soil moisture, reduces soil temperature, and control weeds, but leave mulch free spot right after planting to let the roots to be rooted in, please. Berries Unlimited highly recommends using leaf mulch. Better to use mulching BEFORE the winter comes and take away most of the mulch in early spring not to have roots over watered or over heated. When applying mulch, always keep the mulch two inches under the base of the 3+ years old bush because honeyberry bushes root system is close to the surface. Smaller plants mulch very lightly around stems( 1/5th of inch or less leveled in 1 foot plant base ) AFTER they rooted in completely just to cover carpet type roots which always try to be on the surface. Mulch four inches deep and twenty-four to thirty-six inches around honeyberry bushes before winter comes. If your soil is clay you can add additional mulch.

Weed Control

Prevent weed growth around honeyberry crowns by mulching, cultivating, or applying herbicides labeled specifically for use on honeyberries. Do not cultivate more than two inches deep within rows, since most honeyberry roots are in the top 5 to 7 inches of soil. To reduce root injury due to cultivation, a mulch within the rows is highly recommended to keep weeds down. You can leave some grass in between the rows to prevent mud. It also will help to keep water balanced better.

Pruning

A good-sized, healthy canopy is needed to support the growth of fruit. Pruning encourages production of large, high-quality fruit, and encourages earlier blooming. Fruit is produced on one-year-old wood. The largest berries are produced on the most vigorous wood, so a good supply of strong, one-year-old wood is desirable. When pruning shape the bush by removing dead and diseased wood. Pruning new bushes is recommended only to remove any dead or dying parts of branches. After the fifth year, prune the bushes annually. Honeyberry bushes should be pruned in late winter while they are dormant, and before the buds swell. Proper pruning (the whole branches) should be done to maintain an adequate number of vigorous main stems, to prevent too much shade inside of the bush (only old not productive branches!), and to stimulate new shoot growth. Excessive pruning should be avoided because it greatly reduces the crop for that year. Keep the bush fairly open by cutting out any weak, old stems that no longer produce strong young wood at ground level. Keep four to six of the vigorous older stems and one to two strong new shoots per mature bush. The new shoots will eventually replace the older stems. It is imperative to have a good balance between berry production and growth of vigorous new shoots to insure proper yield of fruit. Try to avoid cutting off the tops of the shoots because they have the maximum number of flower buds, they give you maine crop ,so only cut if damaged(broken).

Fertilization

Fertilizer application is often necessary to provide optimum level and balance of nutrients for honeyberry bush growth. Poor vigor and leaf discoloration often indicate lack of fertilizer. Base initial fertilizer use on the soil analysis. For established bushes, leaf analysis, soil analysis, and observation of plant vigor indicate fertilizer needs. Distribute fertilizer evenly within the root zone and avoid concentrating fertilizer near the crown of the plant. During the growing season try to fertilize three times: The first in early spring with ammonium-nitrate 30g for 2sq ft. The second should be in May with 10-10-10 fertilizer, and the third time in the Fall (October) you can add manure once every two to three years. According to soil type you will have to choose your own plan to fertilize your bushes.

Watering/Irrigation

Young honeyberry bushes require frequent watering since the root systems are shallow, usually less than 18 inches deep. Soil moisture content should not be allowed to become excessively dry. Reddened foliage, wilting, browning leaf margins, thin, weak shoots, early defoliation, and decreased fruit set are often symptoms of inadequate moisture. Water the honeyberry bush frequently enough to keep the soil moist but not saturated. Honeyberry bushes need at least 1 to 2 inches of water per week, do not apply water after early September unless soil is very dry. A rain gauge with a two-inch or greater diameter should be set up in the honeyberry fields to track daily precipitation amounts. Honeyberry bushes may be effectively irrigated by either sprinkler or drip irrigation systems. Drip systems deliver water under low pressure through small emitters. In this method, water is applied only within the rooting area. Since only the row area is wetted, foliage remains dry during irrigation, and weed development between rows is reduced. Mulching will help reduce the frequency of watering. Honeyberries are famous for being tolerant to heat and drought and even over watering, but you should be careful with younger or newly planted honeyberry bushes.

Pollination

Bees pollinate honeyberry bushes. In many instances, wild bees will be present in sufficient numbers to pollinate the flowers. Bumblebees are more effective pollinators than honey bees. Honeyberries require cross pollination because the male and female reproductive organs develop at different times, so you need at least 1 to 5 different varieties for production of berries.

Harvesting

Honeyberries are famous for fruiting early. They fruit at least two weeks before strawberries. They fruit for a two to three week period, depending on variety. Honeyberries can produce berries for thirty years or more. They can produce berries being just one year old, and this is an advantage for customers.

Honeyberry Recipes

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Honeyberries, also known as haskap berries, are a type of fruiting honeysuckle that tastes like a cross between a blueberry and a grape. For cold climate gardeners, honeyberries are a dependable source of early spring fruit, ripening about three weeks before strawberries. Haskaps are extremely cold hardy as well, growing and producing fruit where winters hit 40 below.

Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea) are also known as haskap berries, blue-berried honeysuckle or sweetberry honeysuckle. Though they’ve been grown for hundreds of years in cold climates like eastern Europe, honeyberries are become especially popular in permaculture gardens because of their low maintenance needs. They’re cold hardy, fast-growing and tolerant of poor soil.

Knowing they’d be perfect for our northern climate, I wanted to plant honeyberries for years before I finally found a source for honeyberry plants. Our soil is shallow, clay-filled and wet, and winters are long up here in Vermont (zone 4).

When I finally found honeyberry plants, I was very pregnant, and just a few days shy of delivering my first child. I bought them anyway, and they were planted just a few days before my daughter was born.

She’s always been in the 99th percentile for height, but these vigorous plants still outpaced her. Four years later, they’re around 5 feet tall now, and she can’t quite reach the highest fruits.

Honeyberry plants take begin bearing early, often in their second spring. Crops are light at first, as the plants put most of their energy into growing into vigorous bushes. When they do begin to bear, honeyberries can be quite prolific.

It all starts with small, honeysuckle flowers in the early spring. They look like honeysuckle flowers because that’s what they are. Honeyberries are fruiting honeysuckle bushes, so you get the benefit of beautiful flowers as well as fruit. They’re a favorite of our native bumblebees, and the early blossoms provide early spring nectar sources when they’re desperately needed by pollinators.

A honeyberry plant blooming in early May in Vermont.

Though honeyberry plants bloom about 3 to 4 weeks before our last frost, I’ve never noted frost damage or decreased crops. I assume the blossoms are frost tolerant as an adaptation to may years growing in harsh northern climates. While late frosts will destroy our apple crop some years, honeyberries have been very dependable.

Dependable early fruit is a big deal for us, as someday our goal is to grow all our own fruit for a year-round supply. We successfully root cellar apples already, but by early spring, our palates are craving the first tastes of soft fruit. Strawberries don’t come in until late June or Early July, so honeyberries are a big deal around here.

Though they’re often quite tart, especially when under-ripe. The first fruits of spring are excused for their tartness, and I can understand how they would have been valued in northern climates centuries ago before international shipping.

Tart or not, I can’t keep the little ones off them.

How to Grow Honeyberries

Honeyberries are generally grown from transplants that were propagated from cuttings and then rooted in a pot for 1 to 2 years before planting. While we’ve successfully propagated blueberries and grown elderberries from cuttings, I haven’t been able to get honeyberries to root. All our plants were purchased either from local nurseries or as bare root plants from online nurseries.

I’ve read that honeyberries can also be started from seeds, but I haven’t yet tried growing them that way.

Either way, once you have a few young honeyberry plants, they’re surprisingly easy to grow with minimal care. Here are all the specifics for growing your own haskaps.

Hardiness

While hardiness varies by the variety, honeyberries grow best in zones 2, 3 and 4. They need a cold winter dormancy each year. Some varieties will grow and produce in climates as warm as zone 8, but for the most part, they were bred for cold weather and that’s what they need.

Soil Type

Honeyberries aren’t picky about soil type. They have been known to do well on clay soils where other crops have failed. Our plants are a prime example, growing in about 6 inches of mediocre topsoil above a hardpan layer of dense clay. Under ideal conditions, they’d grow in loam with a pH of about 6.5.

Weeding

While they don’t require particularly deep or fertile soils, they do benefit from a heavy supply of leaf mulch. Honeyberries are shallow-rooted, with the majority of their roots in the top 5-7 inches of soil. Weeding and cultivating the topsoil around their base can damage their roots, and they can be stunted by over competition with weeds.

Keeping roughly 2 inches of leaf mulch around each mature plant will help prevent weeds, and promote a healthy root system.

Honeyberry fruit is produced on 1-year-old wood, and the highest yields come from strong, vigorous 1-year-old branches. Honeyberries should be pruned when they are dormant in the winter months, removing any dead branches. For the first 5 to 7 years, allow the plant to grow as much as possible. Mature plants can be between 3 and 6 feet tall depending on the variety, and it takes a while for them to achieve full size.

Once the plants are full size, prune them annually to maximize 1-year-old wood and remove old or damaged branches. Older branches can shade new growth, and prevent good crops. By pruning the bush back, you’re encouraging sunlight penetration to all the productive branches.

Avoid cutting back the tips of branches, as that’s where the most fruit production occurs.

Fertilizing

While the plants are hardy, and vigorous in mediocre soils, they produce best with fertilizer or organic manure. If you’re choosing to apply fertilizer, a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer is a good choice. Apply in very early spring or fall. Otherwise, go with 2 inches of well-rotted manure per year.

This past spring, we applied fish emulsion fertilizer to honeyberry plants right at bud break. The fruit set was out of this world, and we’re harvesting 4x as many berries this year as ever before. While we’ve always gone with heavy mulch and compost in the past, I think we’ll stick with this fish emulsion routine in the future.

The one place where honeyberries are particular is in pollination. To produce fruit, you need at least 2 different honeyberry cultivars. Ideally, you’d have at least 5 bushes planted near each other, with as many different varieties as possible. Here’s a really handy chart that covers honeyberry pollinator compatibility, and tells you which varieties are good pollinators for others.

They’re bee-pollinated, and with their early flowers, they provide much-needed food for native pollinator bees. A favorite of bumblebees, and ours are full of buzzing bumbles in the early spring.

Harvesting Honeyberries

One of their main benefits is the fact that they fruit so early in the spring. They produce around 2 weeks earlier than the first strawberries. They’ll fruit for 2 to 3 weeks a year, and after that, they’re attractive bushes for the remainder of the summer.

Unlike other perennials, honeyberries can be productive just one year after planting. They go on to produce berries for 30 years or more with benign neglect for management.

The berries are easy to pick with a gentle hand. A bit softer than blueberries, but firmer and more durable than raspberries. Pick them by hand into a basket and use them within a few days. They tend to hide under the leaves, meaning that they’re overlooked by birds, but they’re at a perfect angle for small children to harvest.

My 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son harvesting honeyberries from bushes in our permaculture orchard.

Honeyberries work well in place of blueberries in most recipes. Keep in mind they’re much softer, and they break down quickly in cooking. If making honeyberry pie, combine them with a firmer fruit (like pears or apples) so that the pie doesn’t become soup in a pan. For muffins or bread, choose a recipe using strawberries because they will bake up more like those soft fruits in cakey baked goods.

Our favorite way to use honeyberries is in a simple jam. Mix equal parts berries and fruit (by volume) and simmer until the jam gels when tested on a plate kept in the freezer. Experienced jam makers will know what this looks like, as the bubbles in the pot change when the jam is almost finished. They’ll take on a glossy sheen and the whole pot will change over within seconds.

Haskap jam can be canned just like any other, by allowing for 1/4 inch headspace and processing in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Beyond jam, this year’s harvest is going into simple shortcakes and maybe a honeyberry ice cream. Similar to blueberry ice cream, but these berries are more tart and take a bit more sugar. They also have more flavor in the finished ice cream in my opinion, and honeyberry ice cream is fast becoming one of my favorites.

Homemade Haskap Ice Cream

Other than preserves, it can be hard to find specific honeyberry recipes online, but I dug up a few for you to try:

  • Honeyberry Pear Crisp ~ Grit Magazine
  • Orange, Honeyberry and White Chocolate Bread ~ Artisans Des Saveurs
  • Honeyberry Wine ~ University of Saskatchewan

How are you going to use your honeyberries?

Learn About Honeyberries

Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish grey patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation; do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Leaf Blights: This causes tan spotting on the foliage and causes plants to lose vigor. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Powdery Mildew: This occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Rust: A number of fungus diseases cause rust colored spots on foliage and stalks. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected parts of the plant. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects that can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Mealybugs: Mealybugs are 1/8 to ¼ inch long flat wingless insects that secrete a white powder that forms a waxy shell that protects them. They form cottony looking masses on stems, branches and leaves. They suck the juices from leaves and stems and cause weak growth. They also attract ants with the honeydew they excrete, and the honeydew can grow a black sooty mold on it as well. Burpee Recommends: Wash affected plant parts and try to rub the bugs off. They may also be controlled by predator insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.

Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.

Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls.

Whitefly: These are small white flying insects that often rise up in a cloud when plants are disturbed or brushed against. Burpee Recommends: They are difficult to control without chemicals. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.

Honeyberries

Honeyberries

The Plant:

Edible blue honeysuckles are commonly known as Honeyberries, or Haskap. Native to northern Russia, Japan, and naturalized in Canada, this shrub can grow as a low, sprawling or upright bush.
The selections we have chosen generally range in height from 3-5 ft. tall.

Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea edulis and related cultivars) are generally considered to be of Siberian or Canadian heritage and flower and fruit approximately in season with strawberries. Dr. Bob Bors (University of Saskatchewan) has done a great deal of research focused on the super-hardy Siberian varieties and has collected specimens from the wild, selecting and hybridizing varieties with larger and sweeter fruit, manageable plant habitat and greater productivity.

Haskaps (Lonicera caerulea emphyllocalyx and related cultivars) originate from northern Japan and tend to ripen 3-4 weeks later than the Russian lineage. Dr. Maxine Thomson (University of Oregon) has worked extensively with, and developed numerous cultivars from, this species focusing her efforts on improving the best Japanese traits including later blooming, larger fruits with uniform ripening, and better growth habits.
Currently there is a great deal of research and trialing of blue honeysuckle varieties emanating from these research programs, with cross-pollination and inter-breeding between the sub-species. There is some confusion regarding the differentiation between sub-species, and we have tried to sort out the heritage as best we can. For our purposes, we are currently characterizing species as being “Honeyberries” and then typing as either: early season or later season. Additional information about this crop can be found using the links below.

The Fruit:

Honeyberries produce deep blue berries beginning with the strawberry season in late June, and early varieties may produce the first fruits of the year. Later varieties begin a few weeks later, while the latest pickings may be into late August. Fruit may be oblong, barrel, or flattened bullet in shape and contain high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C. As Bob Bors describes the flavor… “it could be described as sweet, sour, bland or bitter versions of raspberry, blueberry, plum or black currents and any mixture in-between. The best ones however seem to have a predominantly raspberry flavor with sweetness and just a hint of sour or bitter or astringency to give a little zing. That little zing might be described as desirable ‘mouthfeel’ in the world of red wine tasting”. Seeds tend to be small and unnoticeable. Honeyberries can be used as a fresh ‘dessert fruit’, as fresh fruit toppings, or in sauces, in pies, jams, compotes, frozen as with other berries, dried as with cranberries, cherries, grapes, or apples, or made into wines.

The Harvest:
The fruits of honeyberry are picked after they turn a deep purple- blue. Sweetness increases with maturity. The berries don’t tend to prematurely drop, and picking too early can result in a sour or bitter taste. Fruit should be blue inside when ripe, not green. Berries can be hand-picked, shaken from the plant, or machine-harvested. Plants begin to yield in 1-2 years after planting, and production can reach 3-7 kilos per mature 3-4 year old plant.

Planting considerations:
Honeyberries grow in blue-berry type soils, being a fibrous and shallow-rooted plant. Soil PH should be within the 5-7 range. Plants can take heavy soils, as they are from wetland or marginal ancestry, however planting in sunny, well-drained organic soils should bring more dependable performance. When planting in rows, a 3-4 ft. x 10 foot spacing between rows seems to be the general recommendation. Even watering is quite important, although Russian publications suggest that established plants are mildly drought-tolerant. Honeyberries are hardy to USDA Zone 2; blossoms in spring are also very hardy and can survive temperatures of 22-24 degrees. Pollination Requirements: Although many varieties may be considered self-pollinating and will set some fruit, it is generally considered more productive to have 2 or more varieties from the same blossoming season (ie: ‘early flowering, or late…’) to provide cross-pollination.

Birds and pests:
Birds like to eat Blue Honeysuckles, especially cedar waxwings. Netting may be needed. Placing netting directly on the bushes doesn’t work because birds will sit on the netting and eat. A framework may be needed to hold the net away from the plants, out of the reach of the bird.

Honeyberry Plants
Great Northern Berry plants are sold at Wayside Farm in North Sandwich, N.H. Quantities of some varieties are limited and are subject to current availabilities.

Early season (honeyberries):

Berry Blue
Lonicera carulea edulis (honeyberry)

A vigorous and productive plant with an upright growth habit, Berry Blue grows to be a large variety reaching up to 8 ft. in height, producing abundant, large, sweet and tasty berries.

Blue Bird
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
A medium vigor, upright growing bush that will reach 5-6 ft. in height. Blue Bird bears many large, long, dark blue, sweet and tasty berries.

Blue Nova
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
A favorite from eastern Russia, this attractive, compact shrub grows to about 4 ft. in height and bears abundant crops of medium-blue, flavorful berries.

Blue Sky
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)

This unique variety is from the work of an amateur breeder in Siberia. Producing abundant, sweet, and very flavorful fruit, Blue Sky is also an attractive, compact shrub growing 3-4 ft. in height.

Borealis
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
Mature at about 4 feet tall with sweeter and larger berry. This University of Saskatchewan introduction produces blueberry-like fruit that ripen with strawberries.

Cinderella
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
Native to east Siberia, this edible member of the honeysuckle family has been greatly improved. Large, turquoise, tasty berries ripen in mid-June. Very hardy. No pest or disease problems. 3-4 feet tall. Great for fresh eating. More than one early variety is a must for cross-pollination.

Honey Bee
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)
A very tall honeyberry producing large elongated fruit. A fairly tart taste with good flavor and depth useful in prepared fruit dishes, jams, wine, and perhaps dried. A great, mildew resistant pollinator of other early honeyberries.

Indigo Treat
Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)

Excellent tasting. Large, elongated, firm blue fruit. Harvest in June. Mature 4-5 feet Similar to Tundra but smaller berry. Upright growing plants are suitable to mechanical harvesting.
Polar Jewel Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)

Sweet, deep blue berries are produced on this sturdy, compact shrub. It is extremely cold tolerant as a plant but needs another early variety for cross pollination to produce a good fruit set. Likened in flavor to blueberries, the fruit may be eaten fresh or used in recipes, jams and jellies. It is very healthy and Polar Jewel is known as a great pollinator for varieties like Tundra and Borealis.
Tundra Lonicera caerulea edulis (honeyberry)

Mature height about 4-5 feet tall. Firmer skin than other varieties; bleeds less from the scar. Average weight of 1.5 gram is among the largest fruits of honeyberries. Upright growing plants are suitable to mechanical harvesting.

Later season (haskaps):

Aurora
Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
Bush will grow 5 – 6 ft in height with elongated oval shaped berries. Very productive and vigourous with sweet and juicy berries.

Blue Forest
Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
Large deep green foliage with spreading 2-3 foot tall form. Large, tasty dark blue fruit.

Blue Hokkaido
Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
A very popular variety with Japanese Honeyberry growers, Blue Hokkaido features an upright 4-5 ft. tall growth habit and very large, sweet-tart, crisp and flavorful, dark blue berries.

Keiko
Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
The fruit is oval, of medium firmness, with a good sweet-tart taste. Very little juice is produced.

Taka
Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
Cylindrical shaped fruit of medium to large size.

Tana
Lonicera caerulea emphllocayx (haskap)
Fruit is tart-sweet, of medium firmness, and oval shaped.

Credit to: Maxine Thomson and Bob Bors for their contribution to the development of Blue Honeysuckle as a new fruit to North America, and for their pictures and content.

Link to Bob Bors introductory article on Blue Honeysuckle (Lonicera caerulea) in Saskatchewan:

Link to Maxine Thompson introductory article “Haskap Arrives in North America”:

Link to Aug. 2009 Growing Magazine article regarding Dr. Maxine Thompson’s research with Japanese Haskap (Lonicera caerulea) in Oregon: “On the Edge of a Fruit Breakthrough”:

Link to Dr. Bob Bors observations on Maxine Thompson’s research in Oregon on Japanese Honeyberries:

Link to University of Saskatchewan Fruit Program

Link to Haskap and honeyberry breeding in the future (Bob Bors):

Link to Haskap wines:

Whether you call them haskaps or honeyberries, the blue fruits of Lonicera caerulea are delicious et excellent for your health! Photo: karen_hines, Wikimedia Commons

Haskap or honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea, formerly L. edulis) is a fruit-bearing shrub that has been available in nurseries a good while now, but is still relatively unknown to gardeners. Even so, it’s easy to grow and very productive: perhaps the easiest of all the cold-tolerant small fruits. Here are some details about it.

What’s in a Name?

Both growers and gardeners seem unsure about what to call this shrub. It has been called variously blue honeysuckle, blue-berried honeysuckle, sweetberry honeysuckle, honeyberry and haskap. The latter two names seem most prominent, though. Honeyberry is the most commonly used name in the United States, while haskap, from the Japanese name for the berry, is largely used in Canada.

Even the botanical name causes confusion. If you take the broadest botanical definition, L. caerulea has a circumboreal distribution, that is, it’s present throughout the northern regions of Europe, Asia and North America, dipping further south in mountainous regions. According to this view, today’s horticultural varieties have been developed from three subspecies, L. caerulea edulis, L. caerulea emphyllocalyx and L. caerulea kamtschatica, from Siberia, northern Japan and northern China.

The other view is that the subspecies are species in their own right and therefore that the true blue honeysuckle (L. caerulea) is restricted to Europe while the Asian and North American variants are various different species. That makes the cultivated varieties, which are crosses using various Asian types, intraspecific hybrids under the name Lonicera x.

I suggest letting taxonomists duke this one out: it matters little to gardeners and in this text, I’ll consider them all to be selections and hybrids of L. caerulea.

Description

Haskap flowers. Photo: Wildboar, Wikimedia Commons

The shrub about 5 to 7 feet tall (1.5 to 2 m) tall and 4 feet (1,2 m) in diameter with small oval glaucous opposite leaves. The creamy white to pale yellow trumpet-shaped flowers appear early in the spring (late winter in very mild climates), always in pairs. Berries follow from May through June, depending on the climate. They are similar to blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) in color, that is, dark purple, but with a white waxy bloom that gives them a bluish effect. They are, however, elongated rather than round, often distinctly so in the case of modern hybrids, so no confusion is possible. Each single fruit actually formed from two separate flowers.

The long blue fruits of the L. caerulea complex are unique among honeysuckles, most of which, such as the commonly grown Tatarian honeysuckle (L. tatarica), have paired round red or orange fruits. Curiously, while the fruits of other honeysuckles are slightly toxic to humans, there is no risk in eating those of haskaps.

Harvesting has to be done a full maturity, when the fruit is purple through and through. If there is any green inside the fruit, it will be unpalatable. Fruits have a sweet tangy taste reminiscent of a mixture of blueberries and raspberries and are rich in vitamins A and C and antioxidants. In fact, they contain more antioxidants than other common temperate-climate fruit and haskap is therefore being promoted as a super food: the acai of the North, so to speak.

Selection of haskap products. Photo: haskapa.com

The berries can be used for essentially any purpose for which you might use other berries: fresh consumption, jellies, pies, smoothies, yogurt, ice cream, wines and much more. They don’t store very well, usually no more than 2 days in the refrigerator. That’s why you rarely see the berries themselves on the market, but rather derived products like haskap jam or haskap wine, although in Japan, fresh berries are widely sold. They do freeze well, though.

Origins

Haskaps have been grown and harvested in Japan for centuries.

Haskaps/honeyberries were first imported into North America from Japan more than 60 years ago as a potential edible fruit (the Japanese called it the “fruit of longevity”), but they failed to catch on. After all, the berries were horribly bitter! Certainly no one would have called the plant “honeyberry” back then! It had some limited success as an ornamental shrub, but otherwise was essentially relegated to botanical garden collections.

However, the Russians have been working on improving this plant as a crop for over 50 years, trying to develop strains with a sweeter taste and lacking the bitterness of wild forms, largely by crossing Japanese varieties with hardier, less bitter varieties from Siberia.

Bob Bors, head of the Fruit Program at the University of Saskatchewan, took the lead in North America. Crossing haskaps is no easy matter: the modern, sweet-tasting varieties are polyploids (triploids, tetraploids, hexaploids, octaploids, etc.) with various combinations of chromosome numbers. Seeds from polyploid crosses tend to abort under normal circumstances, so you have to grow them in a laboratory using a technique called embryo rescue. Yes, haskaps are test tube babies!

Modern haskaps—that is, those currently available to gardeners—lack the bitterness of the wild haskaps and are now sweet enough that they can readily be eaten raw.

The Earliest Fruit

Haskap berries are delicious eaten raw.

Haskaps mature very early: in May in warmer climates, June in colder ones. That’s still well before any other northern fruit. The plant flowers very early in the season too: in April or May, again depending on the climate. Since early blooming is associated with a risk of frost, you’d normally be concerned about cold damage, but remember that this plant comes from a boreal climate and can cope with cold. As a result, the flowers can handle temperatures down to 19°F (-7°C) even when in full bloom and thus readily resist spring frosts.

The plant begins to produce fruit starting in its second year and can continue to produce for 30 years and more.

Easy to Grow

Haskap orchard

There is nothing very complicated in growing haskaps: all you need is full sun (they’ll tolerate partial shade, but will be less productive) and you’re off and running!

They grow in most soils, readily putting up with clay soils and boggy conditions, for example, but, as with most crops, well-drained, rich soils give best results. In most cases, an annual application of compost will meet all their mineral needs. Unlike blueberries, which have an absolute need for acid soils, haskaps are tolerant of both acid soils and alkaline ones (pH 4.5 to 8).

Also, their cold resistance is legendary: they can survive temperatures as low as -53°F (-47°C) as long as they are fully dormant. They are therefore the northern gardener’s dream crop, readily growing in hardiness zone 2 and worth trying even in zone 1, the coldest zone where one can reasonably expect to be able to grow anything.

Space the plants 3 feet (1 m) apart for use in hedges, otherwise 4 feet (1.2 m) or more if you want to be able to maneuver around individual shrubs.

Water well the first three years, until the root system is well established. Afterwards, haskaps are relatively drought-resistant, although fruit production will be more abundant if you water them during periods of drought. Prune out older, less productive branches every 3 to 4 years to maintain a good harvest.

You need two different varieties to ensure pollination.

Haskaps are self-sterile: the pollen of another cultivar is necessary to ensure fecundation, otherwise there will be no fruit. It is therefore important to plant at least two varieties nearby. Various species of bees, both imported and native, ensure pollination: avoid using toxic pesticides when bees are in the area.

Pests

Haskaps are resistant to most insect pests, but can occasionally be affected by powdery mildew during the summer, after harvest. This disease is mostly an aesthetic problem and doesn’t reduce the plant’s productivity, but still does cause concern among beginning growers. Fortunately, modern cultivars are much more resistant to powdery mildew than earlier introductions.

So far, so good, but, as with so many other small fruits, you’ll still have to deal with fruit-eating birds when the fruits are ripe. They can empty a shrub of all its fruit in less than 24 hours! It may therefore be necessary to install bird netting to keep them at bay.

Growing Haskaps in Warm Climates

The haskap is essentially a northern crop. It will not thrive where it doesn’t have a prolonged period of freezing or near freezing temperatures (less than 45°F/7°C). Its chilling requirement is about 750 to 1000 hours of cold, depending on the variety.

In mild climates, Russian and Canadian cultivars are not the best choice. Their tendency to bloom early may backfire: they can be “fooled” into thinking winter is over and start to bloom too early, when no bees are present for pollination, resulting in a crop failure. Slower-to-bloom Japanese cultivars are more amenable to growing in mild climates.

The haskap also prefers a relatively cool summer. Where temperatures regularly exceed 86°F (30°C) for more than a week, the shrub tends to go into early dormancy. Although this is after harvest, it can be disconcerting to see its leaves turn yellow, then brown and drop off in mid-summer. Many gardeners mistakenly believe the plant is suffering from a lack water or from some kind of disease (indeed, heat stress does tend to bring out powdery mildew), but it’s best to think of this as just being its normal reaction to excess heat. The best advice in such a case is simply to let the plant take care of itself. As long as it receives the winter chill it needs, it will be back in the following spring with a new load of fruit!

That said, there is a limit to how much prolonged heat a haskap will take. This plant will probably always be a better choice for hardiness zones 2 to 6 than 7 to 9.

Recommended Cultivars

The big berries of ‘Boreal Blizzard’. Photo: U of Sask Fruit Program

If you buy plants locally, the choice of varieties will likely be limited… unless you have a small fruit nursery nearby. If you’re willing to order plants by mail, though, that will open up a lot of possibilities. In the US, try Haskap Central Sales Ltd (actually a Canadian company, but they sell plants to the US) or Berries Unlimited. In Canada, try Green Barn Farm or Vesey’s.

The quality of the cultivars from the University of Saskatchewan program is pretty much blowing the older Russian varieties out of the water. Look for such varieties as ‘Aurora’, ‘Borealis’, ‘Tundra’, plus the ‘Indigo’ series (‘Indigo Gem’, ‘Indigo Treat’, ‘Indigo Yum’). There is a lot of buzz about the two most recent cultivars released from the program, ‘Boreal Blizzard’ and ‘Boreal Beauty’, which produce much larger and more abundant berries than older cultivars, but they may be in limited supply for a few years yet.

Don’t entirely ignore Russian varieties like ‘Honey Bee’ (actually, a Russian/Japanese cross), ‘Cinderella’, ‘Blue Belle’ and ‘Berry Blue’. The berries they produce are smaller and not as sweet, but they are excellent pollinators for Saskatchewan varieties and are often used mostly for that purpose.

Japanese haskap Yezberry® Solo™. Photo: Proven Winners Color Choice

Japanese varieties are less hardy than Saskatchewan and Russian haskaps (about zone 4), bloom later, and bear smaller fruit. Recent releases no longer have the bitterness associated with the first introductions and, in fact, some claim they are the sweetest of all haskaps. They are the ones to try in more moderate climates (zones 6 and 7). Yezberry® Maxie™ and Yezberry® Solo™ are two of the newer, sweeter Japanese varieties that are gaining in popularity.

Good growing!

Edible Landscaping – Edible of the Month: Honeyberry

Some honeyberry varieties produce fruits that look and taste like blueberries. However, they mature two weeks before strawberries.

Sometimes it’s good to stretch your horticultural imagination. While there are plenty of great berry crops to grow in gardens, there also are some unusual ones that might be worthy of your attention. Amelanchier or service berries are a good example of a native shrub that is commonly grown as an ornamental, but has varieties (called saskatoons) that produce excellent fruit as well.

The shrub that I’m excited about right now is the honeyberry. Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea) is in the honeysuckle family. Like many ornamental honeysuckles, honeyberry bushes are widely adapted, have few pests, and are easy to grow. But unlike most honeysuckles, honeyberries produce small, elongated, blue fruits that taste like blueberries.

Honeyberries are native to eastern Russia and hardy to -40F (zone 3), but can be grown as far south as USDA hardiness zone 8. They’ve been used as a food crop for hundreds of years in Asia and Eastern Europe, but are only recently catching on in North America. The shrubs grow 5- to 7-feet tall and wide. They flower early in the season and produce fruits before strawberries ripen. So in many places, they will be the first fruits you harvest. The fruit quality varies depending on the variety. Most often it is described as blueberry-like, although some people will describe the taste as closer to that of raspberries or saskatoons. They are best eaten fresh out of hand or used to flavor yogurts, ice cream, breads, or made into jams and jellies. The fruits are also high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Planning

Honeyberry shrubs grow best in part sun in the south and full sun in the northern locations. You’ll need at least two different varieties for cross pollination. Because of the plant’s ultimate size, honeyberries are well adapted to being used as a hedge or a foundation plant in an edible landscape. The plants are attractive even when not flowering and fruiting, with grey-green foliage and yellow fall leaf color. Some honeysuckles can be invasive and the jury is still out on whether honeyberry falls into this category, so keep an eye on it.

For an unusual berry crop, there are already a number of named varieties. Here is a selection of what’s available to date.

‘Berry Blue’ – A large variety that grows to 8 feet tall and produces large berries as well.

‘Blue Belle’ – A 4- to 5-foot tall and wide variety that produces roundish, deep blue berries.

‘Blue Bird’ – An early blooming, 6 foot tall and wide shrub that has elongated dark blue fruits.

‘Blue Forest’ – This dwarf variety only grows 3 feet tall and wide and has a more spreading form than other varieties.

‘Blue Velvet’ – This variety features attractive grey-green foliage and very large, medium blue fruits on a 4 foot tall and wide bush.

‘ Kamchatka ‘ – A variety from Siberia, it’s a late bloomer, making it a good choice in areas with late spring frosts. It’s produces dark blue fruits on semi-upright, 3- to 4- foot tall shrubs.

Preperation

Honeyberries grow best in moist, well-drained soil. The ideal pH is 6.5, but they are adapted to a pH range of 5 to 8. Unlike many other berries, they produce well in a partly shaded location and on wet, clay soils, although they do best on a well-drained soil.

Planting

Honeyberry shrubs can grow 3 to 7 feet tall and wide depending on the variety. It makes a carefree, edible landscape plant in a hedge or used as a foundation plant.

Space plants 5- to 7- feet apart in rows. Mix and match varieties for proper pollination. Honeyberry shrubs like a humus-rich soil. Dig a one foot diameter hole and amend the soil with peat moss and compost.

Care

Like blueberries, honeyberry shrubs have shallow root systems, so benefit from a good layer of organic mulch. Spread bark, sawdust, or leaf mulch 2- to 4-inches deep around the shrubs. Replenish annually. The mulch will keep the soil evenly moist, helping the berries reach maximum size and allowing for better nutrient uptake by the roots as the mulch decomposes. Fertilize your bushes based on a soil test. If you’re growing on very poor quality soil, or if you notice nutrient deficiency symptoms on the leaves and small fruits, consider adding a complete organic fertilizer in spring.

Honeyberries have few insect and disease problems, but you may have to net bushes to discourage birds from eating the ripe fruits. Keep plants well watered and weeded, especially when young. Little pruning is needed on bushes younger than five years old other than removing dead, diseased, or broken branches. After that, periodically remove older limbs and spindly shoots to make room for thicker, young limbs to grow. Ideally you should have four to six older limbs and a few younger shoots per shrub. Prune in late winter. Since honeyberries bloom so early in spring, the shrubs may need protection from late spring frosts.

Harvest

Honeyberries start producing fruit the first year after transplanting, but may take a number of years to reach full production. They flower early, and most varieties produce fruit two weeks before strawberries. Let fruits turn blue throughout for the best flavor. Often fruit skins will turn blue while the flesh is still green, resulting in a tart flavored berry. They fruit for two to three weeks in spring and will produce fruit for up to 30 years.

Other information on Honeyberry:

Berries Unlimited
Honeyberry

Haskap Berry Info – How To Grow Honeyberries In The Garden

Honeyberries are a treat that really shouldn’t be missed. What are honeyberries? This relatively new fruit has actually been cultivated in cooler regions by our ancestors. For centuries, farmers in Asia and Eastern Europe knew how to grow honeyberries. The plants are native to Russia and have remarkable cold tolerance, surviving temperatures of -55 degrees Fahrenheit (-48 C.). Also called haskap berry (from the Japanese name for the plant), honeyberries are early season producers and may be the first fruits harvested in spring.

What are Honeyberries?

Fresh spring fruits are something for which we wait all winter. The first honeyberries taste like a cross between raspberries and blueberries. They are excellent eaten fresh or used in desserts, ice cream and preserves. Related to the blueberry and huckleberry, haskap berry is a heavy producing plant that requires little special care.

Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea) are in the same family as blooming honeysuckle, but they produce an edible fruit. Birds and other wildlife love the berries and the attractive shrubs grow without much encouragement in temperate and cool zones to a height of 3 to 5 feet. The term haskap refers to

the Japanese varieties, while edible honeysuckle refers to the Siberian hybrids.

The plant produces a 1-inch, oblong, blue berry with a flavor that fails to be classified by most eaters. It is said to taste like raspberry, blueberry, kiwi, cherry or grapes, depending upon the taster. The sweet, juicy berries are experiencing new popularity among European and North American gardeners.

Propagating Honeyberry

Honeyberries require two plants to produce fruit. The plants need to have a shrub that is unrelated nearby to pollinate successfully.

The plant roots easily from dormant stem cuttings and fruits in two to three years. Cuttings will result in plants that are true to the parent strain. Cuttings can root in water or in the ground, preferably a soilless mixture until a good cluster of roots have developed. Then, transplant them to a prepared bed where drainage is good. Soil may be sandy, clay or almost any pH level, but the plants prefer moderately moist, pH 6.5 and organically amended mixtures.

Seeds require no special treatment, such as scarification or stratification. Propagating honeyberry from seed will result in variable species and the plants take longer to fruit than stem cutting plants.

Space plants 4 to 6 feet apart in a sunny location and plant them at the depth they were originally planted or deeper in amended garden beds. Ensure that an unrelated variety of honeyberry is nearby for cross pollination.

Water regularly the first year but allow the top surface of the soil to dry out in between irrigation periods. Mulch 2 to 4 inches deep around the plant’s root zone with leaf litter, grass clippings or any other organic mulch. This will also help keep competitive weeds away too.

Apply compost or manure in spring to add nutrients. Fertilize according to a soil test.

Pests are usually not a problem, but protection from birds is an important part of honeyberry care if you want to preserve the fruit. Use a framework of bird netting over the plants to keep your feathered friends from enjoying all your efforts.

Additional honeyberry care is minimal but may involve some pruning and watering.

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