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Testing out honeyberries

Honeyberry and strawberry

We planted two honeyberry bushes last spring (Blue Sea and Blue Velvet), and a few berries showed up on each last month.  I waited with baited breath as the first one turned pink and then purple, then I waited yet a little longer since I've heard that honeyberries are best when eaten very ripe.  At long last, it was time for a taste test.

The conclusion?  Half of a tiny honeyberry is too small of a morsel to register on your tastebuds.  Drat!  I guess I'll have to wait until next year for a real flavor sampling.  In the meantime, though, I can write about how honeyberries live up to other claims by nurseries and by garden writers.

Ripening honeyberryThe main reason I planted honeyberries is because I'd read that the fruits ripen up before strawberries in the spring.  This appears to be false on our farm --- we ate our first strawberries a few days before our honeyberry.  On the other hand, our honeyberry bushes are planted closer to the hillside, meaning the ground there is colder in the spring and the plants might grow more slowly than they would have if planted in a more sunny location.  If a taste test next year suggest the species is worth committing to, I'll try out some more bushes in a warmer spot --- honeyberries are just rebranded honeysuckles (Lonicera caerulea), so they should be easy to propagate

Honeyberries did better in the second claim department --- that they grow well in shade.  The area where our bushes are growing is on the shady side of our blueberry patch, so they get about six hours of shade at the summer solstice.  Despite the lack of sun, the bushes are doing great and are fruiting already (albeit lightly), so the species definitely does fit into those difficult-to-harvest-from shady areas.

I'd be curious to hear from others who have eaten more than half of a honeyberry.  What do you think of the flavor?  And do honeyberries ripen up before strawberries in your neck of the woods?



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We are in our second year with honeyberries. They taste very similar to blueberries. I grow them because they are shade tolerant, and ripen before the blueberries do.
Comment by Kristina Sat May 24 15:35:01 2014

I love this post. I can see this starting a huge rush for honeyberries among homesteaders just in case there are regions where they come first. Are there other varieties that come earlier, before strawberries?

Personally I am new to currants. Kinda. I think Mom always loved them, but I think the one bush I ever knew of went down her throat before I got to them! I do know that the bush we currently have has red fruit on it now.

Maybe you already have currants. If that is not a good suggestion, maybe think about different varieties like varieties that come sooner!

Comment by Maggie Sun May 25 00:59:47 2014

I'm in zone 3 and grow 3 different species of honeyberry... all of which are zone 2/3 hardy. So its definitely possible that there'll be some variation in flavor... however... at 90% ripe, they're tart... so if you like tart you'll like these. If you wait until they're bordering on overripe, they'll actually fill with enough sugar to mitigate the tartness... they become a bit like sour sweet candies.

Two points to add to this:

1) These things are amazingly hardy and vigorous. I planted several bushes in hard clay which was light on fertiility giving them only a mulch to move forward with. And... they grew quickly and produced hard. Very impressive.

2) Up here in zone 3, they put out ripe berries 2-4 weeks before the first strawberries come in.

Comment by JasonK Mon May 26 15:12:08 2014
JasonK --- Fascinating data! So it sounds like the further north you are, the earlier honeyberries are in relation to other fruits. (Another commenter on Facebook mentioned that her honeyberries produce after her strawberries, like mine do, and she lives in zone 5.) Unless, of course, you just have much earlier varieties than we do.
Comment by anna Mon May 26 16:15:13 2014

Or you have strawberries that ripen pretty early in your climate. ;)

Up here though... my honeyberry bushes literally start budding 1 week after the snow goes. They're the first to bud, leaf, flower, and fruit (which is great as it get bees onto my acreage very early in the year). I'm betting the cold hardiness factor of these has much to do with their timeline.

Comment by JasonK Tue May 27 15:03:02 2014

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime