February 17 2021
You can grow blueberries in Montana if you are determined. You can add lots (and lots) of peat moss to our soil, build raised beds filled with soil you buy, buy acidic fertilizer and use it regularly, and even figure out a way to fix your alkaline water. You can do all of this and get some blueberries. No doubt there are exceptions to this, but as they say the exception proves the rule. I don’t know what the return on your investment of time, energy, and money is, but it can’t be good.
Or! You can go buy some haskap bushes. Their number one attribute is that they don’t mind our generally alkaline soils. The berries look like elongated blueberries and taste close enough I think, maybe even better. Haskaps are members of the honeysuckle family (Lonicera) and come from the northern boreal forests of Asia, Russia, and North America. In Japan they were given the name ‘haskappu’ by the indigenous Ainu people, which meant “little presents at the end of branches.” Or “many fruits at the end of branches.” Another meaning is ‘berry of long life and good vision.’ They are also called honeyberries.
If you want to delve deeply into information about haskaps (and other northern cold hardy fruits) check out the University of Saskatchewan Fruit Program where they have developed new varieties. They also have some very nice charts showing bloom times for haskaps, as you need more than one unrelated variety for pollination and they bloom at different times. Their website also mentions a book that I just put on my wishlist, ‘Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens’, by Sara Williams and Dr. Bob Bors.
Birds like haskaps as much as we do, so you will probably need to cover them with bird netting. In my opinion, the best long term method is to use posts and some kind of framework to make cages big enough to walk inside to pick the berries. The sides could be rolled up until the berries ripen. But I confess, so far I just manage to throw the netting over the top.
Haskaps are known as a super fruit; they have three times the anti-oxidants as blueberries and a legion of other health benefits, one of which is that they are anti-inflammatory. I hope to get enough one of these years to freeze a lot-maybe just eat them whole like mini popsicles. Though they’re pretty good in scones, too.
Whatever you want to call them, haskaps are easy to grow and delicious fruits. Little presents for sure.
Haskaps, Honeyberry, Blue honeysuckle- Lonicera caerulea, 4-6’ tall and wide, zone 2-6