On Friday, my mom and I were able to pick the first berries of the season from our little fruit/berry patch. 🙂 We have about 6 Evans Cherry trees, 31 Honeyberry bushes (aka Haskap), 5 apple trees, 4 saskatoon trees, over 100 strawberry plants (lost count after 100 LOL), 2 blueberry bushes (but still no berries), a Chum (but doesn’t produce because it doesn’t have a pollinator), and a couple of current bushes which are actually in the garden. We also have lots of rhubarb bushes in the garden and I would guess 12 but that could be incorrect. There is also another sour cherry tree as well and it is absolutely covered in cherries each year but I am not sure what kind of cherry tree it is.
This post is about the Honeyberries though since they are the only bushes currently producing. 🙂 I would like to share a bit about them for those of you that are curious about what they are.
Honeyberries (aka Haskap) are the first berries that are ready to be picked at our place and these are what my mom and I started picking on Friday. I would like to share a bit about how we got into growing them and a bit about them since not many know what they are. They actually originated in Siberia and the University of Saskatchewan developed varieties that would grow here. Around 10yrs ago (possibly longer-I can’t recall exactly) they were just starting to sell them I think and asked people to report back on how well they did. Before buying them we went to a lecture by someone from the U of S to learn about what they were at DNA Gardens I think? As you can tell- my memory is failing me a bit on this. lol At the time there were only a few varieties available. Since that time the U of S has created more varieties which are better with bigger berries. A few years ago we bought 30 more plants because we were very impressed by the berries and wanted more bushes. We bought 15 of each of 2 newer varieties. We lost 3 but the others are doing very well! This is the first year that the newer bushes are producing quite well so we are very excited about that!
Now to share more about the berries themselves. These berries are absolutely amazing! First off, the bushes are definitely perfect to grow in Alberta’s climate. They start growing very early in the spring even though it’s still cool. The flowers can withstand up to -10 C frost and not die which is huge because we have lost whole crops of cherries because of late frost while they are blooming. The berries are oblong in shape and they are purple in colour. Some say they taste like a cross between a blueberry and raspberry but I would personally say they are more sour than that but they do have a similar taste to a blueberry/raspberry cross I suppose. It is possible to eat them raw but if they are not completely ripe it is somewhat difficult to eat them that way. They are extremely high in antioxidents and vitamin C and A. Some are calling them a wonder berry because of the amazing health benefits. If you would like to take a closer look at the health benefits, you can find them on the Haskap Canada website. They have been around for quite a while now but the buzz is only starting to grow around them. I have been attempting to find or create recipes to use them in because we are getting quite a few in the mean time and there are not many recipes yet. They are still a fair bit sweeter than rhubarb despite being sour and they taste great in coffee cakes, sauces, pies and what ever else you put berries into. I had created my own recipe for sauce last year and it was incredible (according to my family) but I forgot to write it down! lol so I have to figure it out again I think.
Friday was definitely a fun day because it was so much fun to start berry picking again! I find berry picking makes it feel so much more like summer has arrived. 🙂 I just wish my back would be in better shape because I am not able to last more than 15 min at a time. Yet that is still quite good considering it was only a little over 3 weeks from my surgery. We already picked a couple of pounds of berries from friday and yesterday which is only the beginning! They produce so many berries on fairly compact bushes. The 4 mature bushes that we have are less than 6ft tall. I would now like to share a few photos of our Honeyberries. 🙂
The first photo is of our 4 mature bushes that we got about 10 yrs ago. They have produced for quite a few years now. The netting in the picture is the beginnings of a way to keep the birds away because they love the berries too!
Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the other bushes currently but I hope to get a good photo of them soon!
The second photo shows how many berries gives you an idea how many berries are the branches but these are not ready yet.
The last photo is of some of the honeyberries we picked on Friday.