It’s not often a completely new fruit type makes its way onto the much-recommended list for the Upper Midwest. Raspberries, strawberries, apples and plums have been around since the days pioneers built their sod huts. We are now living in the days of fruit-growing history, as a brand new fruit makes its way into popularity, slowly gaining exposure over the past decade.
It’s the Honeyberry. Another name for this cousin of the honeysuckle is haskap, but I think promoters would agree calling it Honeyberry is a better marketing concept. Honeyberry has been well known in Siberia and Japan for many years. University of Saskatchewan has been a leader in breeding varieties well-suited to North America.
Here’s the scoop on Honeyberry:
- Fully winter-hardy in our region’s zones 3 and 4.
- Very well-adapted to the soil types in the Plains states. Grows well in nearly all soils. No special additions or amendments needed.
- A great alternative to blueberries, which require acid soil and are difficult to grow west of Minnesota’s naturally forested regions.
- Honeyberry is a woody-type shrub; some varieties become a 4-foot mound, others grow to 6 or 7 feet. Need to check labels.
- An easy-to-grow shrub that can be added to the home landscape.
- Two different cultivars of Honeyberry are needed for pollination and fruit set. Some varieties mesh better for pollination, so a little reading of plant tags or descriptions is helpful.
- Honeyberry shrubs will usually fruit about the 3rd season after planting.
- Fruit flavor is described as a mix of blueberry, raspberry, etc.
- I’ve eaten them fresh out-of-hand, and those I tasted were delicious. Cultivars vary somewhat in sweetness.
- Fruit is oblong, bluish in color.
- Bird netting is strongly advised, as birds know a good thing when they see it.
- Fruit ripens early – June into July in our region, dependent somewhat on cultivar.
- New cultivars will appear on the market as breeding continues.
- Fruit shape varies slightly between cultivars.
- Cultivar names include Tundra, Borealis, Indigo, Aurora, etc.
- Honeyberry shrubs are available at many local garden centers.