Simon, co-founder of Haskapa here.
Its harvest time for haskap berry farmers, so yesterday I caught up with Haskapa’s farm manager, Cynthia, just as she was dispatching the last trays of freshly picked haskap berries to the freezer. Cynthia was elated at completing yet another hard year of graft… and understandably proud that a fresh crop was on its way to the processing plant, as opposed to being digested by hungry birds.
The annual cycle of the haskap berry is totally driven by the plant’s geographical origins as a cold climate honeysuckle variety. Haskap plants occur naturally in extreme northern forest climates, where freezing cold winters and relatively cool summers have combined to evolve the bush into a hardy, nutrient-dense powerhouse… it has to be in order to survive in such hostile conditions.
In the wild, the berry would ripen by early summer to be gobbled up by migrating birds. That’s how it spread from Siberia to Hokkaido in Northern Japan. The haskap bush grows easily in cool, wet conditions.
Cynthia’s farming is all about harmonizing between the bush’s natural cycle and the commercial needs of an all-natural haskap berry orchard.
If our haskap new year is the July harvest, by August the bushes will begin to discolour and shed leaves. By the autumn, pruning season, the bushes will look bare and weather beaten. Come the winter they are already long since stripped of any leaves and present as woody stalks poking up from the snow.
When it gets really cold - minus temperatures day and night - the plant goes totally dormant. It is resting, conserving precious energy for the spring growth surge. Outside, there is little for Farmer Cynthia to do, so the days are spent maintaining equipment, buying materials for the following season, catching up on paperwork, chasing off the odd deer and keeping warm.
Spring is sensational. With the first warmer days, so the woody stalks sprout leaves at a miraculous pace, quickly transforming from bare stems to voluminous green bushes in a matter of just a few April/May weeks, encouraged by gentle irrigation, but kept scrupulously free from any soil damaging, chemical intervention.
With May’s warming sun come the picturesque honeysuckle flowers, and so too the bees and insects, who obligingly set to work pollinating the bushes. Their abundance is no accident. Haskapa’s certified bee-friendly farm has a strategy to encourage insect habitation, with consideration to year-round feeding and nesting, driven by scientifically nurtured, environmentally friendly farm management.
About 50 days after the emergence of those first flowers, the harvester is at work. To get to the bushes, nets have to be removed, a last minute activity because of the thousands of birds gathered to pounce immediately the haskap berry laden bushes are exposed. One by one the harvester shakes the haskap berries from the bushes, cleans away the farm debris (soil and twigs) and places the berries on trays for immediate freezing.
All managed by Mother Nature and Farmer Cynthia, in harmony with the environment of Nova Scotia and Haskapa, to bring to you our amazing, nutritious, superfood, freeze-dried haskap berry powder. Enjoy 😊