The haskap berry is a member of the Caprifoliacea family and is also known as ‘blue-berried honeysuckle’, ‘honeyberry’ and ‘sweetberry honeysuckle’. The Japanese Ainu indigenous people have named haskap as “ハシカプ”(pronounced hah-shi-ka-pu) translated as “many fruits on branches”. The haskap shrubs are referred to in Japanese as “ケヨノミ” (pronounced key-yo-noh-mi)1.
These fruits naturally grow in several places in Asia: from the high mountains on central Honshu (the main island of Japan) to Hokkaido and the Chishima Islands, and beyond to Sakhalin, North-East China, and Siberia1. The berries were generally consumed fresh or preserved using sugar, salt, or shochu (an alcohol made of rice), and used in traditional medicine to ameliorate several disorders2.
There has been a growing demand for haskaps in Japan since the 1970s, with the introduction of new haskap-based products in the market place.
The first haskap breeding programs started in Canada in the 1920s and, more recently, higher yielding and tastier varieties have been introduced by North American breeders such as Dr. Maxime Thompson (Oregon State University), Dr. Bob Bors (University of Saskatchewan), and Lidia Delafield (Berries Unlimited). Haskap has adapted well to growing in the Canadian climate, and the berries appeal to Canadian consumers looking for healthy and delicious products.
- Shimoyama Y (ed.). (2008). The hascup – An introduction. Hokkaido Government, IBURI Subprefectural Office, Department of Industrial Promotion, Agricultural Affairs Divison. Available on: http://www.iburi.pref.hokkaido.lg.jp/ss/num/hasukappu.htm (accessed on May 5, 2016)
- Thompson MM. (2006). Introducing haskap, Japanese blue honeysuckle. J. Am Pomol. Soc., 60: 164–168