BLUE HONEYSUCKLE – HASKAP (Haskap, Sweetberry Honeysuckle, Edible Honeysuckle)
Caprifoliaceae – honeysuckle family
The Blue Honeysuckle registered at last on the list of traditional foods in the EU!!
We are pleased to inform you that pursuant to the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 2018/1991 of 13 December 2018, under Regulation (EU) No 2015/2283 of the European Parliament and of the European Council, the Blue Honeysuckle berries (Lonicera caerulea L.) have been entered on the list of traditional food from a third country and authorised to be placed on the market in the territory of the EU.
Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries belong to the earliest fruits in the season, and as the first ones, the earliest varieties ripen at the end of May. The berries of the most important varieties ripen in June. They contain a lot of vitamins and minerals – which exceptionally favourably affect the human body – and boast great dietary, prophylactic and medicinal properties. Once experts called them “berries of eternal youth” since some antiageing compounds were discovered in them. Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap is undemanding and easy to cultivate. Its new cultivars combine the most required traits of plants: they yield fruits which are large, sweet and tart but not bitter in taste and that is why enjoyed when raw, they are heat and drought tolerant, long-lived, frost hardy and ripen very early. The exceptional general health of cultivated Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap varieties allows their growers to implement ecological methods of cultivation.
Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap can be found in Russia, China, Japan and Canada. Presently, in Russia, only hybrids of Lonicera caerulea var. kamtschatica Sevast. are cultivated, together with other varieties of blue-berried honeysuckle, especially L. kamtschatica var. edulis. In Japan (Hokkaido), this variety was crossed with L. kamtschatica var. emphyllocalyx, and in Canada with the endemic variety L. kamtschatica var. villosa and the one originated in Japan, i.e. L. kamtschatica var. emphyllocalyx. In nature, Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap grows in damp areas, along rivers, in bogs and marshes and in forest clearings.
All natural forms of Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap grow into bushes about 2.2–2.5 m high, develop seasonal leaves and can live over 50 years. Its leaves are oval and blue-green with a slight waxy coating and can be up to 8 cm long and almost 5 cm wide, and develop alternately on sprouts. Its flower buds appear on last year’s sprouts and are formed within a few days after the spring warmer weather. Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap displays inconspicuous flowers, funnel-like in shape, yellow and white in colour, up to 2 cm long; in Poland they appear at the end of March and in April. Depending on weather conditions, the flowering lasts from 20–25 days. Its flowers are entomophilic, i.e. pollinated by insects (most often by bumblebees, rather rarely by bees). Russian observations suggest also anemophily, i.e. wind pollination – its bushes, in difficult climatic conditions in early spring when pollinating insects are not active yet, also bear fruits. Blue Honeysuckle is a hermaphroditic but not self-pollinating (open pollinated) plant and it requires cross pollination. That is why a greater choice of plants on plantation provides bigger crops; plants of the same variety give a low crop despite abundant flowering. Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap bears fruits which are elongated berries (resembling highbush blueberries in hue), 1 cm in diameter and up to 5 cm long, and they can weight more than 3 g. Its fruits contain up to 20 seeds, which are soft and not perceptible while eating. They boast a characteristic nice taste with a trace of bitterness (especially in older varieties) and their juice is dark and colouring. When ripe, Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries – in contrast to high blueberries – are dark throughout their whole cross-section.
In the 1950s, in Russia (Bakchar), the first selection works were conducted paying special attention to using the Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berry juice as a natural food colouring. The present breeding of its new varieties focuses not only on the taste of its fruits, its length of storage and high yielding, but also on the possibilities of mechanical harvesting. New Russian and Canadian varieties of Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries have harder skin, they ripen at the same time and leave a dry stem scar, thanks to which are good for mechanical harvesting and sorting. Their fruits can be kept in a traditional cold store up to 2 weeks. However, there have already been conducted some experiments on extending that period of time. Researchers of the Russian Agricultural Academy (RASHN) in Moscow proved that the fruits of some cultivars of Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap can be stored even 3–4 weeks. Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap varieties to a great extent differ in their length of storage. Fruits of older cultivars are rather sour and tart, while those of new varieties are mainly meant for the fresh fruit market. They are sweet and often devoid of tangy and bitter taste. Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries ripen as the first fruits in the season. In Poland, their early varieties ripen already at the end of May (earlier than strawberries!), even up to 6 weeks before American blueberry. The periods of flowering and fruit bearing were given according to Russian and Canadian sources, and based on observations of several seasons on our farm. Generally, it has to be accepted that in Poland its berries will ripen about 4–6 weeks earlier than the above sources say. In 2013, the full fruit bearing season in Siberia fell in the third decade of July! In 2014, most varieties ripened in the first decade of July. Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap fruits get their hue 1–2 weeks before their harvesting time, and that is why their ripeness should be examinedd before harvesting since unripe fruits are not tasty. Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap yields crop every year and its fertility increases up to its 15th year of life. One-year-old seedlings planted on plantation start bearing fruits 2–3 years after planting and give a considerable crop 4 years after planting. On average, the bush yields about 3 kg of berries (sometimes it can give a crop even up to 8 kg!). It’s full yielding falls in the fifth year after planting, and in the years to come.
Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries contain a lot of vitamins including carotene (provitamin A), thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), folic acid (B9), piridoksin (B6), rutin (Р) and pectines and tanning agents. They also contain natural macroelements (magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium and phosphorus) and other microelements (manganese, copper, barium, boron, silicon and iodine) good for the human body. Its content of vitamin C (40–60 mg%) is almost the same as in the lemon, and its content in the leaves reaches even 200 mg% (Сады России – Lidia Vasilievna Yurina). According to other sources, the content of vitamin C may even reach up to 150 mg/100g (Сады России – Vladimir Sergeevich Ilyin). Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries have 50% more of polyphenols (including 5 times more of anthocyanins) and twice more of active antioxidants as compared to the berries of V. myrtillus. According to http://haskapberries.com, the level of antioxidants in Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries is the highest in currently tested fruits. The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC), i.e. the ability to absorb reactive forms of oxygen by antioxidants equals 13,400 mmol/100g, which is an exceptional score. Additionally, the level of phenols was found at 1,014 mg/100g, anthocyanins at 949 mg/100g and bioflavonoids at 887 mg/100g.
Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries contain a significant amount of a dry substance (19%), sugar – even up to 21% (mainly glucose – 75%), saccharose – up to 11.4%, and a smaller amount of fructose, galactose and ramnose. Fresh berries possess also considerable amounts of dietary substances, such as sorbitol and inositol. The above-mentioned are highly recognised in anticancer prophylaxis, treating heart diseases and diabetes.
Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap is soil tolerant, it grows well almost everywhere excluding boggy (heavy and clayey) and dry (light and sandy) soil. In dry and permeable soils it needs to be watered, especially in the 1st and 2nd year after planting, so as the plants could develop an abundant and deep root system. It is pH tolerant and can grow in soils with the pH of 5–8 (slightly acidic soil, with the pH of 5.5–6.5, seems to be the best). Cold and damp positions or the ones where groundwater appears should rather be avoided, long-lasting spring flooding also adversely affects them; highly tolerant of air pollution.
Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap prefers positions in full sun, however it tolerates slightly shadowy places, but then it bears smaller fruits. It gives abundant crops only in fully sunny positions and sheltered from the wind.
Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap is totally frost hardy, sustains temperatures even below –45°C, and its flowers survive at –8°C. In spring, its leaves develop even when there is still snow on the ground. Young, green branches can survive at –16°C.
Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap prefers moist positions. Seven-year-long observations at VNIIS (BHNNC – the Michurin Russian Institute of Certification) revealed a negative effect of drought in the period of the Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap fruit developing and ripening on the quality of its fruits and their tendency to drop off, on its crops and even on its higher susceptibility to diseases (among others to sunburns). Irrigation and humid air around the bushes, which can be obtained by watering their beddings, considerably increase the weight of berries.
Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap is an undemanding plant in its first years after planting. It does not require special pruning and plant protection, and at the same time it is a long-lived plant and its production period comes to 20-30 years. Some basic cultivation procedures can be found below.
Plants above 30 cm high, with two or three shoots 0.7–1.0 cm wide at the root crown and the root system 20–25 cm long are regarded to be the best. Vegetatively propagated plants, planted in containers (most often in P9 pots and sometimes in greater ones) are usually offered on the market. They can be planted in the ground throughout the whole vegetative period; however, autumn (September and October) seems to be the best time. It is recommended to plant Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap in positions after potatoes, vegetables and other bulb and root plants. Prior to planting, the soil should be weeded and fertilised.
On plantations, Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap bushes are planted according to the following scheme:
• for manual harvesting – distance between the rows should be 2.5–3.5 m, in the rows 1.0–1.5 m (on commercial plantations from 2,500 to 4,000 plants/ha)
• for mechanical harvesting – distance between the rows should be 4.0–4.5 m, in the rows 0.5–0.7 m (on commercial plantations even up to 5,000 plants/ha).
The size of the hole should be adjusted to the root system of the plant. It is good to add compost or other organic substances into the hole. Plants should be planted 5 cm deeper. The soil around the bushes should be watered and bedded. The remaining nurturing consist in weeding, scarifying the circles around the bushes up to 5–8 cm deep, which should be done in autumn when the leaves have dropped (scarifying should be shallower near the bushes so as not to damage the roots, and between the rows it should be deeper).
Most Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap varieties are open pollinated. It is good to plant 2–3 varieties which bloom at the same time to provide cross pollination according to the principle: the more varieties, the better crops! Cross-pollinating varieties should be planted in rows (or in blocks consisting of several rows) one next to another. Mixing varieties in rows should be avoided due to maintaining proper organisation of harvesting.
Before starting a small plantation in autumn, the field should be fertilised with organic fertilisers (manure, compost or peat), e.g. 8–10 kg/m². When you do not have enough fertiliser, you can put some of it into the holes while planting the plants. It is enough to give 10 kg of fermented manure or compost per hole, 40–50 g of monocalcium phosphate and the same amount of potassic salt (Сады России – Nadezdha Viktorovna Savinkova, Andriej Vasilyevich Gagarkin).
A good preparation of the planting position makes additional fertilising during the first three years after planting redundant. Young plants should be fed 2–3 times during their vegetation; the first time in spring, at the beginning of April – 20 g of urea, 30 g of ammonium nitrate or 40 g of sulphate ought to be poured on the surface of 1 m² around the bushes. The second time in summer, at the beginning of July after the harvest, using compound mineral fertiliser (25–30 g of fertiliser should be diluted in 10 litres of water and applied in a 5 litre dose per plant). Fertilising with a solution of liquid manure (1:4) is especially effective, using a dose of 10 litres per bush. A ready-made complete fertiliser can be poured at feeding (60–80 g/m²). In autumn, fertilising is conducted for the third time. Enriched organic fertiliser (humus or compost) is scattered on the soil, which is to be dug up, in a dose of 8–10 kg/m² around the bushes. Acidic soils should be enriched with agricultural limestone every 3–4 years (200–300 g of limestone or chalk per 1 m²) before the field works in autumn. Older plants (6–7-year-old) should be fertilised twice during the season, in spring and in autumn, increasing the dose 1.5 times (Сады России – Lidia Vasilievna Yurina).
Within 5–7 years from planting, Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap bushes are usually not pruned because a considerable amount of crop is lost with their top parts. Systematic pruning starts in the 8–10 year of cultivation (Сады России – Lidia Vasilievna Yurina). The best time to do it is in autumn, when the leaves have fallen off (or in spring till the end of March at the latest). Pruning consists in thinning the crown and shortening skeletal branches by half. In the case of 20–25-year-old plants, rejuvenation pruning is the best (at the height of 30–40 cm above the ground) and in the following year new sprouts are left. The bush is formed in the spring of the third year after thinning when its 10–15 strongest branches are left.
If weather conditions are unfavourable, some varieties can develop symptoms of mildew or sunburn. The incidence of larvae of the polyphagous butterfly (moths), San Jose Scale, plant louse or spider mite (after harvesting during dry continental summers) was observed rather sporadically. However, it should be noted that Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap belongs to the plants which are exceptionally rarely attacked by diseases and pests.
In folk medicine, Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries are used to strengthen capillaries in treating cardio-vascular, stomach, liver and gallbladder complaints. They create favourable conditions for excreting radioactive substances, are recommended for consumption at avitaminosis, when the body weakened after winter needs ascorbic acid. Their juice is good for treating mycosis and ulcerations, and its leaf and flower extracts are recommended for the eye, throat and skin diseases. In Tibetan medicine, extract from its bark is prescribed for headaches, rheumatism, arthritis and strong abdominal pains. Water flower extract, applied as compresses, is used in the diseases of the eyes. Its shredded leaves, which have antiseptic properties, are used for healing wounds. Dried young sprouts, collected at blooming time, are used for preparing extract, which is applied as a diuretic and a remedy against losing hair. Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries are good when enjoyed raw and for processing, they can be added to cakes, ice-creams and yoghurts, and used for compotes, fruit liqueurs and wines. Thanks to a substantial content of pectin (2%), they have gelling abilities and are excellent for different jams and preserves. Their cherry-like juice in hue is a good colouring for other juices and foods. Dry Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap fruits retain all their precious qualities. Blue Honeysuckle – Haskap berries are also good for deep freezing and after de-frosting they disintegrate into a smooth mass which gives excellent mouse for desserts.
• “Сады России” No 1/2012 – Kamchatka Berry in Every Orchard – Lidia Vasilievna Yurina, PhD in Agricultural Sciences, Odincovo, District of Moscow
• “Сады России” No 6/2012 – Blueberried Honeysuckle in Central Ura” – Nadhezda Stiepanovna Jevtushenko, PhD in Agricultural Sciences, Assistant Professor in Svierdlovsk Horticulture Station
• “Сады России” No 8/2012 – A Leading Culture of Bakchar – Nadhezda Viktorovna Savinkova, Senior Researcher and Andriey Vasilievich Gagarkin, Junior Researcher at FGUP Bakcharskoje Rosselhozakademii, Bakchar, District of Tomsk
• “Сады России” No 8/2012 – Blueberried honeysuckle in a Home Garden – Anatolij Michailowich Michieiev, PhD in Agricultural Sciences, Moscow
• “Сады России” No 8/2012 – The First in the Season – Vladimir Sergeevich Ilyin, PhD in Agricultural Sciences, Chelabinsk
• “Сады России” No 8/2012 – At the Present Stage of Selection – Dmitrij Michailovich Bryksin, PhD in Agricultural Sciences, I.W. Michurin VNIIS, Michurinsk (No 8/2012)
• “Сады России” No 8/2012 – The Berry of Eternal Youth – Roksana Michailovna Ivanova – Editor-in-chief of Russian Orchards
How we set up our first
Recently, the Blue Honeysuckle has become popular in Poland thanks to its early fruiting (its fruits ripen as the first ones in season) and healthful properties. It arouses interests among berry growers because a many year-long breeding has resulted in developing delicious fruits which are large, juicy and sweet, and ideal to be enjoyed raw.
When we started our first Blue Honeysuckle plantation, we were forced to partly experiment with it since Poland did not have, and still does not have, precisely elaborated growing methods of this plant. We drew on the experience of our trusted breeders from Russia and Canada, where the Blue Honeysuckle is grown commercially. We also supported our efforts by accessible literature on the subject and research reports on growing this plant.
This is just to share some information with you on setting up and running the Blue Honeysuckle plantation. These are not rigid guidelines but only our suggestions which may become useful when you decide to produce these berries.
Our first Blue Honeysuckle plantation was set up on soils class II, III and IV in the area of 5ha in Sosnówka, a place several kilometres away from Krakow.
In spring 2015, we sowed the fields with pre-cropping plants (soya, field beans and cereal in one field) in order to prepare the soil for planting. After harvesting, they were ploughed with the stubble field aggregate.
The next stage consisted in eradicating the plough pan with the deep loosener which worked at a depth of 60 cm.
Then the fields were worked with the stubble field aggregate consisting of ridging ploughs, a disc harrow and the Packer furrow press.
Later, rows were marked out at a distance of four meters. Such spacing was determined by the size of our fields; however, based on our experience, we can say that the optimum spacing between rows should be between 4.0 and 4.20 m.
After that, acidic peat (pH of 3.8) was scattered in rows to correct the soil reaction and improve the soil structure, which in our case is heavy and impermeable. The amount of 20 litres of peat (with 20-40 mm granulation) was used per one linear metre of the row.
After improving the soil with peat, the fields were dug up 30-35 cm deep with the agricultural spader.
Several days later, when the loosened soil slightly settled, raised beds (70 cm wide by 15 cm high) were made and covered with the 90 g/m2 black agrotextile fabric.
The fabric was marked for incisions for planting holes by means of a wheel which was run along the bed. The wheel additionally made a small depression in the bed for the irrigation system to come.
Then the H-letter incisions were made in places for planting holes. The 50 cm spacing between plants in the row was assumed, which gave the planting density of five thousand bushes per one hectare in 4.0 m by 0.5 m spacing. The above spacing was deliberately made smaller, hoping that when grown more densely, bushes would develop in a fan-like shape and would not be too overcrowded in spaces between rows. Overcrowded bushes make mechanical harvesting more difficult and some of their shoots get destroyed during the harvest. The above idea was taken from the blackcurrant breeders who had adopted such strategies. However, if you decide that such spacing is not convenient, you can always make distances between bushes greater and reduce the number of plants to be grown by half.
Then holes in the agrotextile fabric were made with a PTO digger or an 18cm PTO auger.
The Honeysuckles were planted 1-2 cm deeper than they grew in pots. They were planted manually because our soils are heavy and impermeable, which does not allow us to use specialist machinery and equipment.
Annual seedlings grown in square 3.5 l pots were used as planting stock. We were aware of the fact that their rather big size made planting a little more difficult, but it was the price which we had to pay for speeding up the first harvest.