Edible Honeysuckle: Lonicera caerulea (Honeyberry, blue-berried honeysuckle, sweetberry honeysuckle – or Haskap)
The Honeyberry is relatively a new introduction into the UK. They are native to Siberia, northern China and northern Japan where they were widely harvested. Ideally honeyberries should be planted in pairs or groups, as this will increase the rate of pollination and fruit production. The large, elliptical berries are similar in colour and taste to blueberries in taste with a slight aftertaste of honey. They can be eaten raw or used in jams, jellies and icecream. The fruit is very high in antioxidants, loaded with Vitamin C & retains flavour & form when frozen. Honeyberries also make excellent wine of a rich burgundy colour. The shrub itself can grow to between 4 to 6 feet in height.
What is the best time to plant lonicera caerulea – Blue honeysuckle?
Plant honeyberry in Spring when the risk of frost has passed in a well drained soil rich in organic matter. Soil type is not an issue which makes the honeyberry a great alternative for those who struggle to grow blueberries. Plant in full sun which will help to increase fruit yield and apply a yearly application of a balanced fertiliser in spring. – Too much fertiliser will produce lots of foliage but not many flowers or fruit. Mulch with well composted organic matter to help retain moisture.
How and when to prune the Honeyberry?
Remove only dead material from young plants – the first 3 years – until they become established. Thereafter prune in early to mid-summer after harvesting by removing and straggly weak or damaged growth. Overcrowded shoots should be thinned out – remove a number down to the base this will encourage the growth of new strong shoots to replace the old. To encourage more flowering laterals, remove remove the tips of young shoots.
As the Honeyberry flowers in late winter to very early spring it may be worth considering pollination by hand as there is very little pollinating insect activity at this time. Lightly brush over the flowers with a small, soft pain brush
When is the time to harvest the Honeyberry – lonicera caerulea – Blue honeysuckle?
The fruit is harvested between late spring to early summer. When they are ripe the berries will turn blue and develop a whitish bloom; but make sure you check that the flesh is purple-red as green under-ripe fruits can be very sour.
It can take up to two years before you get a crop but once mature expect about 6kg of fruit per plant.
Do be aware: All honeysuckles have berries but not all of them are edible. In fact, many are harmful so please make sure you are growing the correct type
The Haskap Growers Association of Nova Scotia has a number of recipes available on their website