In 2007 the first University of Saskatchewan (USask) haskap (Lonicera caerulea) cultivars were released. Since then, this specialty berry (also known as honeyberry or edible blue honeysuckle) has been of interest by commercial growers and home gardeners alike.
Below is an overview of general characteristics of the source material used in various breeding programs followed by production vs. pollinizer cultivar recommendations that may assist growers in selecting appropriate cultivars for their operation.
Currently the most common cultivars planted in Ontario for production are the USask ‘Borealis’, ‘Tundra’, and ‘Indigo’s’ (B.T.I’s). Originally released in 2007, the BTI’s were planted for fresh berry production and for value-added products such as wine, juice and jam. With the introduction of newer cultivars from USask, recommendations are now changing on which cultivars to plant for harvest versus ones to be used for pollinizer plants.
A timeline of USask cultivar releases:
- 2007: ‘Borealis’, ‘Tundra’ and ‘Indigo’ series (Indigo Gem, Indigo Treat, Indigo Yum).
- 2012: ‘Honeybee’ – originally released as a pollinizer for B.T.I.’s
- 2012: ‘Aurora’ – originally released as a pollinizer for ‘Borealis’ (and possibly ‘Tundra’)
- 2016-2018: Release of ‘Boreal’ series (‘Boreal Blizzard’, ‘Boreal Beauty’, ‘Boreal Beast’)
With seasonal experience, growers are finding that ‘Honeybee’ and ‘Aurora’, which were first released as pollinizer plants, are now producing larger and more flavourful berries compared to the BTI’s. ‘Honeybee’ and ‘Aurora’ are now suggested as production cultivars while using BTI’s as pollinizer plants.
2016 saw the release of the first in the ‘Boreal’ series of haskap, ‘Boreal Blizzard’. Although we do not yet have experience with commercial production of these plants in Ontario, according to research trials at USask, the ‘Boreal’ series appears to have larger fruit and improved flavour compared to the original BTI’s.
With the release of the newest haskap cultivars by the USask and potentially more options coming from Maxine Thompson in the USA in the near future, we will no doubt see further development of this fledgling industry in Ontario.