It is a deciduous shrub growing to 1.5–2 m tall. The leaves are opposite, oval, 3–8 cm long and 1–3 cm broad, glaucous green, with a slightly waxy texture. The flowers are yellowish-white, 12–16 mm long, with five equal lobes; they are produced in pairs on the shoots. The fruit is an edible, blue berry about 1 cm in diameter.
- Lonicera caerulea var. altaica. Northern Asia.
- Lonicera caerulea var. caerulea. Europe.
- Lonicera caerulea var. cauriana. Western North America.
- Lonicera caerulea var. dependens. Central Asia.
- Lonicera caerulea var. edulis, synonym: L. edulis. Eastern Asia.
- Lonicera caerulea var. emphyllocalyx (also known as Haskap). Eastern Asia.
- Lonicera caerulea var. kamschatica. Northeastern Asia.
- Lonicera caerulea var. pallasii. Northern Asia, northeastern Europe.
- Lonicera caerulea var. villosa. Eastern North America.
Another classification uses four subspecies:
- Lonicera caerulea subsp. caerulea.
- Lonicera caerulea subsp. altaica.
- Lonicera caerulea subsp. pallasii.
- Lonicera caerulea subsp. villosa.
- Haskap: an ancient Japanese name of the Ainu people (also spelled phonetically as Haskappu, Hascap, Hascup) but still used today in Japan and in North America.
- Blue Honeysuckle: descriptive translation from Russia.
- Honeyberry: coined by Jim Gilbert of One Green World Nursery, Oregon, and fairly common in North America.
- Sweet Berry Honeysuckle: an old common name from the 1940s.
- Swamp fly honeysuckle.
- Known in Russia as "Edible Honeysuckle".
Distribution and habitat
The species is circumpolar, primarily found in or near wetlands of boreal forests in heavy peat soils. However, it also can be found in high-calcium soils, in mountains, and along the northeast coasts of Asia and North America. Interestingly, it is absent on west coasts. It has not been found in Norway, Alaska, or British Columbia.
Cultivation and uses
Russia's N.I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry has the longest history of collecting from the wild and breeding this crop. L. c. var. edulis has been used the most in their breeding efforts but other varieties have been bred with it to increase productivity and flavour. In Japan (Hokkaido Island) and in the Oregon State University Haskap breeding programs, L. c. var. emphyllocalyx has been the dominant variety used. The University of Saskatchewan Breeding Program in Canada is also emphasizing L.c. var. emphyllocalyx, but is also hybridizing with Russian varieties and L. c. var. villosa.
Plants of many cultivars will grow to be 1.5 to 2 meters tall and wide. It can survive a large range of soil acidity, from 3.9-7.7 (optimum 5.5-6.5). Blue-berried honeysuckle plants require high organic matter, well drained soils, and lots of sunlight for optimum productivity. Lonicera caerulea plants are more tolerant of wet conditions than most fruit species. Harvest season can be 2 weeks before strawberries for Russian type varieties but Japanese types will ripen at a similar time to strawberries. Two compatible varieties are needed for cross pollination and fruit set. This is a northern-adapted species that can tolerate very cold temperatures; in North America, most Russian varieties are adapted to hardiness zones 1 to 4. Gardeners in zones 5 and 6 probably would need to use the Japanese varieties, which are far less likely to grow during warm periods during winter. The southern range of this plant is not yet known. Often it will fruit in the year after being planted, even if very small. Perhaps by the 3rd year 1 pound (1/2 kg) may be harvested. The plants may take three or four years to produce an abundant harvest. Average production on a good bush is about 7 lbs (3 kg).
Blue-berried honeysuckle can be used in processed products: pastries, jams, juice, wine, ice cream, yogurt, sauces, and candies. When frozen fruit is placed in the mouth it melts away. Seeds are not noticeable when eating but if they are observed they are similar in appearance to seeds found in kiwifruit. The skins simply disintegrate which has caused some excitement amongst ice cream and smoothie makers. The fruit also turns dairy products into a bright purple-red. It can make excellent wine, some say similar to grape or cherry wine. The wine will be a rich burgundy colour. Its juice has perhaps a 10 to 15x more concentrated color than cranberry juice.
The fruit of blue honeysuckle is similar in flavor to blueberries or saskatoon berries. Berries turn blue on the outside before fully ripe inside, possibly causing a sour taste due to unripe fruit while still green inside.
- "The Plant List".
- "The Plant List". Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- Bob Bors. "Growing Haskap in Canada" (PDF). University of Saskatchewan, Department of Plant Sciences.
- VIR Database http://vir.nw.ru/dev/php/acc.list.php?cnt=0&filter=&genus=Lonicera&order=genus&stp=20
- "Observations of Japanese Haskap in Oregon" (PDF). University of Saskatchewan, Prairie Fruit Genebank, Department of Plant Sciences. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
- "Haskap". University of Saskatchewan, Prairie Fruit Genebank. 2007. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
- Interactive Agricultural Ecological Atlas of Russia and Neighboring Countries http://www.agroatlas.ru/cultural/Lonicera_K_en.htm
- Janick, J.; Paull, R.E. (2008). The Encyclopedia of Fruit & Nuts. CABI. ISBN 9780851996387.
- Haskap Wines at the U of S Fruit Program http://www.fruit.usask.ca/Documents/Haskap%20Wine.pdf
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