Did you ever wonder where the wide variety of fruit trees hardy for the prairies comes from? It might surprise you to know that many varieties are developed right here at home at the University of Saskatchewan. Take a moment to go on-line to www.fruit.usask.ca and see what’s growing at the University! Their home page states that the U of S is “One of the most active and exciting university fruit programs in Canada today. The U of S fruit researchers have been carefully breeding and selecting cold hardy plants for superior fruit quality and yield for over 90 years. China, Mongolia, Russia, Hungary, India and Japan have all contributed to one of the most extensive and diverse collection of cold hardy fruiting plants in North America.”
My interest was in the Haskap, the blue honeysuckle. A couple years ago, a dear friend of ours gave us a jar of haskap syrup; it was absolutely delicious, and when I saw haskap offered in one of our seed catalogues, it renewed my interest to perhaps try this amazing plant.
Haskap is part of the honeysuckle family, a very hardy and early-fruiting cousin that will gift us with oblong shaped, deep blue fruit that looks like an elongated blueberry. Here’s what the U of S site says about haskap: “Haskap is an exciting new crop for North America. The good varieties taste something like blueberries & raspberries. The early varieties are the first fruit crops to ripen, even before strawberries, late ones are ripe 3 weeks later. Since receiving funding from Saskatchewan Agriculture in 2006, we have made controlled crosses resulting in thousands of seedlings. Already we see impressive results in faster growing plants and larger berries. Perhaps more exciting for us are the wonderful flavours that occur in different plants in the breeding program. Often it’s hard to decide which is best. Our goal is to combine the best traits from Haskap from different regions to adapt this crop for mechanical harvesting. But we also want to have early mid and late season varieties that taste great.”
For you and me and our home gardens, haskap is a relatively small shrub that grows to approximately six feet high, and is low maintenance, too. As you will see on the U of S website, there are several haskap varieties listed, but the variety that produced the largest berries is “Borealis Haskap”, followed by “Tundra Haskap”. From what I have read about both varieties, either one would make a nice addition to our yards.
Someone was telling me that they are in the process of landscaping their new yard this coming spring. There are so many choices, but not a lot of space! With a yard that is a clean slate, I think I would check with the experts at the nurseries and choose some compact fruit trees and shrubs. If you’re going to be planting something anyway, why not plant something that will give you a yummy crop of apples or berries? There are choices for smaller spaces, so it is definitely worth looking into!
Don’t forget, the next meeting of the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society is on Thursday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m. at the Sunshine Room, SIGN on North Street. Our guest will be Maira Waechli from Florissima, and Maira will be talking to us about flowers that are suited for drying, and how to use them in arrangements. Maira is a delightful speaker, full of enthusiasm and information, so I know we will have a great meeting! Hope you can join us!
Have a great week, gardeners — isn’t it nice to see the days getting longer? Enjoy!