Unknown by many in the states, the honeyberry has been a valued fruit plant for centuries in Asia and Eastern Europe where they grow wild in the cold, wet and mountainous regions. The Ainu aboriginal people of Japanese recognized this berry as “the elixir of life” and for thousands of years (as resources claim) they used this for food and medicinal purposes. Today, we find this fruit is gaining popularity with homesteaders and berry lovers throughout North America.
At first glance, the honeyberry appears to be an elongated blueberry. After a quick taste, the comparison stops. This 1-inch long berry is a member of the honeysuckle family and has a vibrant red or blue interior unlike that of a blueberry. They provide a high level of antioxidants and nutrients including vitamin C and potassium. The taste is like a mixed berry pie with a blend of flavors ranging from raspberry, cherry, blackberry, to grapefruit. As for my tasting notes, I find that the berries remind me of kiwi mixed with raspberries. How can you go wrong with any of the flavor combinations? Honeyberries are perfect for fresh eating, smoothies, homemade wine, jams, jellies, juices and dried as a healthy addition in granola and trail mixes.
Honeyberries are usually the first berries to arrive and harvest. Most varietals will ripen during mid to late spring and usually a few weeks before strawberries. They’re not available in grocery stores and rarely found at the local farmer’s market. Your best choice is to grow a few plants. It’s an easy berry bush to grow and they will thrive in most soil types. A honeyberry bush can grow from 4 to 8 feet tall. They also make a beautiful landscaping hedge or foundation plant.
- Common Names: Honeyberries, haskap (Russian cultivars), fly honeysuckle, blue honeysuckle, sweet berry honeysuckle, zhimolost (Japanese cultivars), and many more.
- Plant thrives in zones 3 – 9.
- Depending on variety, will grow 4 to 8 feet.
- Prefers full sun to partial shade.
- Grows well in most soil types.
- Space plants 4 to 7 feet apart.
- Requires at least two varieties for fruit pollination and production.
- Prune older bushes to encourage new growth and larger fruit harvests.
- Apply manure or compost in spring.
- Mulch 2 to 4 inches thick with leaf, bark, grass clippings or other organic mulch.
WHERE TO FIND
You might be able to find the plants at a well-stocked garden store. Fortunately, there’s an abundance of garden Internet sites offering a variety of honeyberries and a few will ship for free.
If you’re looking for a berry adventure, then you should consider planting honeyberries. Spring is a great time to plant for fruit next year. It’s an excellent multi-generational investment that will yield berries for 30 to 50 years.