The University of Saskatchewan Boreal series of haskaps (lonicera caerulea), released from 2014 to '16, greatly extends their harvest season with the fruit ripening into early August. This series has large fruit and bushes.
Boreal Beast (2016) is one of the best in terms of flavour and aroma from the university breeding program. The berries resemble thick bullets with a slightly bumpy skin and average two grams. Bushes are about five by six feet and very productive. Pollinate with Boreal Blizzard and Boreal Beauty.
Boreal Beauty (2014) is a breakthrough in terms of extending the harvest season as they ripen in mid to late July. The berries have excellent flavour and can hold on to the plant until early August if it’s not too hot. They are oval to heart-shaped and average 2.6 grams. The bushes are strong, upright and six by three feet. It is a heavy producer. Plant with Boreal Beast for cross-pollination.
Boreal Blizzard (2014) has berries shaped like smooth surf boards that are both large (three grams) and great tasting with low acidity, ripening the second week in July. The upright shrubs are about five feet and very productive. Plant with Boreal Beast for cross-pollination.
Because haskaps put on most of their growth in spring, they should be planted in early spring or fall. Place them in full sun in well-drained soil well amended with organic matter. Mulch them to 12 inches beyond their drip line to conserve moisture and control weeds.
Fertilize with compost or composted manure that provide a slow release of nutrients. If using a water-soluble or granular fertilizer, do so at half or one-third the label recommendation.
Prune haskaps in late winter or early spring once they are five years old. Remove one or two of the oldest branches from the centre of the plants each year. In later years thin a branch or two from the base as needed.
Because the berries appear ripe on the outside five or 10 days before they are ripe on the inside, it’s best to test a few before harvesting. Bite a berry in half. If the inside is mostly green and it tastes “grassy,” it is not ripe. Try again in a few days, but don’t let the birds beat you to them! When fully grown, bushes can produce six to 10 pounds of fruit per bush.
Use the berries for jams, juices, pies, smoothies, ice cream and pastries. They can be dried like raisins or made into fruit leather and have also been used for wine and liqueurs.
The most annoying pests? Birds! Haskaps are the first fruit to ripen and birds are hungry. Try small diameter netting, taking care to tuck it underneath the plants as well. Or set out pans of water nearby in hopes that it is the moisture the birds are after.
Want to grow haskaps? Most garden centres carry them. They will also be available at the university’s annual plant sale at Field Headquarters on 14th Street. The next sale will be June 2019.
Sara Williams is the author and coauthor of many books including Gardening Naturally, with Hugh Skinner, the revised and expanded Creating the Prairie Xeriscape and, with Bob Bors, the recently published Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens. She continues to give workshops on a wide range of gardening topics throughout the prairies.
— This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.saskperennial.ca, www.facebook.com/saskperennial). Upcoming gardening events: Aug. 12, 1 to 4 p.m., SHA Provincial Show, Davies Arena, 810 Woodward Ave, Indian Head, (www.icangarden.ca/clubs/SHA/ ); Sat., Aug. 18, 9 to noon and Tuesday Aug. 21, 6:30 p.m. – SPS Labour and Learn at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo, learn gardening tips while helping to maintain the Heritage Rose and the Meditation Gardens.