The haskap berry was already established for many years in Northern Japan and Russia, and scientists at the University of Saskatchewan have further developed varieties to thrive in Canada as well and exotic northern names include Tundra, Borealis, Indigo Treat and Indigo Gem. Don Northcott’s company in Clyde River, Phytocultures, is one of few licensed propagators (plant breeders) for haskaps in Canada, and his company is further developing varieties to achieve refined flavours, uniformly-shaped berries for increased commercial potential, and hardier plants for northern climates. They have been shipping plants across Canada and the Northern US.
“The Haskap berry is exciting news for the Northern berry industry, especially in regions that have had difficulty growing berries and are susceptible to late Spring frosts,” says Don.
Last year, Quebec lost much of their blueberry crops to frost, so along with a global over-production of blueberries and the fact that the same equipment can be used to harvest Haskaps as blueberries, Canadian growers are taking a very serious look at this new business opportunity.
So now that I have your interest, you ask, “So what do they taste like?” Well, they have a taste all their own; like a cross between a grape and a blueberry, not overly sweet and a light taste. Each variety has its own nuance of flavour. The berry is indigo blue with a delicate, velvety skin. Each berry has a good amount of succulent juice that is red like a raspberry. What is very sweet are the antioxidants offered by these berries which is almost three times that of blueberries. What a healthy way to start the berry season.
No wonder Don has to protect his berry treasures with nets. The birds of Clyde River have discovered them, and they sneak inside the nets, hide under the haskap bushes and eat to their heart’s content. When I arrived to take photos, some birds were happily flying within the netting, so Don had to chase them out. He caught one well-nourished little bird before releasing it.
I picked a box of the Indigo Treat variety; they felt silky and dropped easily off the bush into my hands. I prepared them as part of a dessert where I added whole haskaps as a topping on ice-cream along with others crushed as a juice and drizzled on top. The purple and burgundy presentation is attractive. They would work well on a vanilla yogurt as well. Haskaps have all the flexibility of other berries and can be made into jams, jellies and wines.
If you are interested in growing Haskaps, the bushes are attractive and could be placed within your landscaping and offer you some early Spring berry treats. But remember, the birds like them as well, so you may require a little netting, or one bush for you and one for the birds. You can plant the bushes in Spring or in Fall. Contact email@example.com for more information.