The haskap berry, also known as honeyberry or blue honeysuckle, is gaining popularity on the prairies due largely to the work of two men at the University of Saskatchewan.
Recently, the Manitoba Horticultural Association awarded the 2019 A.P. Stevenson Commemorative Award to Dr. Bob Bors and Rick Sawatzky of the U. of S.
Bors and Sawatzky manage the fruit development program there, which has resulted in the introduction of ten haskap cultivars as well as apple and sour cherries.
The award recognizes the collaboration of these two individuals to develop, select, introduce and promote these fruits for prairie gardeners and fruit producers.
In 1997, Sawatsky ordered four cultivars of haskaps from Oregon. These four cultivars were selected from material collected in Russian botanical gardens.
A few years later, Bors tasted fruit from these bushes on a plot tour and became interested.
A short time later he met Dr. Maxine Thompson who was breeding haskaps at the University of Oregon. It was Dr. Thompson who adopted the name "haskap" from the name used by the Ainu people of Hokaido, Japan, the first people to cultivate this fruit.
They have developed a world-renowned collection of genetic material and selections that are becoming widely grown on the prairies.
The collaboration between Sawatzky and Dr. Bors has brought new, high quality fruit cultivars to prairie gardeners and fruit producers.
“Haskap has a sweet tangy zing flavour that most people say is a cross between blueberry, raspberry and black currant.” –Haskap.ca
The berries have tiny, edible seeds and a blue skin that looks much like a blueberry but is so thin, it melts in your mouth.
The website calls the haskap bushes “well behaved” because they don’t sucker, have no thorns, need little pruning, give fruit when young, are drought and cold tolerant, and the berries are easy to pick.
A Virden gardener with haskap bushes in her backyard says the only problem is that birds love the berries as much as people do, and they cleverly foil human efforts to protect the fruit.