Yard & Garden Report


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A Better Blueberry

Haskap is a promising new crop for North Dakota.

North Dakota is a terrible place to grow blueberries.

Our soils are too alkaline, our winters are too cold and our climate is too dry. Blueberries cannot survive the rigors of North Dakota.

Don’t despair—we have found something better! It’s a blue honeysuckle called haskap. Haskaps thrive in the Northern Great Plains. Millions of haskap shrubs have been planted in the Prairie Provinces of Canada.

Haskap fruits are larger and sweeter than blueberries. The flavor is absolutely delicious with essences of blueberry, raspberry and grape. They are great for fresh eating, making jams and jellies, baked into pies or made into wines.

There are three groups of edible blue honeysuckles. All are superhardy and have no major pest problems. The first group came from Russia and is often referred to as honeyberries. Cultivars include Blue Velvet™, Blue Moon™ and the Sugar Mountain® series. Russian honeyberries ripen earliest (mid-June) and tend to be tarter. 

The second group, with a mix of Russian and Japanese ancestry, has created a lot of excitement in the north. Researchers in Saskatchewan have released varieties known for large, plump, oblong berries. Cultivars include Aurora, Borealis (shown), Indigo Gem and Tundra. These ripen in late June.

The latest introductions of this program are Boreal Beauty, Boreal Beast and Boreal Blizzard. They bloom later in spring, which may lead to more reliable and higher yields.

The third group of honeysuckles has pure Japanese ancestry. These have rounder berries, less foliage (making harvesting easier) and an upright plant habit. Cultivars include Maxie™ and Solo™ (shown) of the Yezberry® series, Keiko, Tana and Kawai. These haskaps were developed by Dr. Maxine Thompson, a retired researcher from Oregon State University. These berries ripen in early July.

Kathy Wiederholt, the Fruit Project Manager for the Carrington Research Station, has been working with Dr. Thompson to identify selections suitable for North Dakota. Kathy’s research is aimed at finding selections that are productive, ripen uniformly. hold onto their fruits until harvest, and have an upright plant habit suited for mechanical harvesting operations.

Kathy provided a virtual tour of her work recently at the station. You can watch it here.

Lastly, here are a few quick tips on successfully growing this crop: Two compatible cultivars are recommended for production. Plant in a sheltered area; brisk winds will discourage pollinators and cause fruits to drop. Netting is essential—birds will desire these fruits as much as you do. More information on this crop is available at honeyberryusa.com and the NDSU Northern Hardy Fruit Evaluation Project website

Written by , Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photos courtesy of Bailey Nurseries and Proven Winners. 

Filed under: Horticulture, Tom Kalb, Fruits
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