In the Western world, we might think we’ve seen it all: every superfood, health food, or antioxidant-rich berry out there. Fruits like acai, pomegranate, and blueberry have taken health-focused juices and fitness supplements by storm, all thanks to their reputation for amazing nutrients, antioxidants, healing power, and flavor.
But if it’s true we’ve seen everything; then it doesn’t explain why an amazing health food called honeyberry— also known as blue honeysuckle, or haskap— hasn’t yet made it to the Western world and become just as well-known as these other foods, especially considering it may be even better for you than the rest!
You may be wondering already: what is honeyberry? Is it really as sweet as it sounds? An important traditional food and medicine in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres, honeyberry could soon be just as valued in places like health food stores and supermarkets. For right now, it is hard to find in the United States. Keep reading to learn why and why it may be the next big thing.
What is honeyberry?
Honeyberry is just one of the many names for the berry food from a non-climbing species of honeysuckle Lonicera caerula. Besides the native Japanese name for it (haskap) and blue honeysuckle, it is also called swamp fly honeysuckle, fly honeysuckle, sweet berry honeysuckle, or blue-berried honeysuckle.
Honeyberry comes from a small shrub that flowers even through frost and sub-zero temperatures, producing elongated blue oval-shaped little fruits. The bush grows all over northern regions of the Northern Hemisphere: Europe, Asia, and North America in Canada. It became an important traditional food and healing herb, especially in Poland, Russia, and Japan— besides the English word “honeysuckle,” another popular name for it, “haskap” is a Japanese term from their native people, the Ainu.
Healing and health benefits of honeyberry
Much like other antioxidant-loaded dark berries (such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and more), honeyberry contains a lot of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant. Anthocyanin is also responsible for the dark pigments of blue and purple you also see in these foods!
It’s shown that honeyberry contains 3 times more of this antioxidant than blueberries, an incredible amount! (Of note, honeyberry is a relative of blueberries). Antioxidants help naturally keep down inflammation and free radicals, which increase in the body due to disease, poor diet, or age. Research shows that honeyberry’s antioxidants seem to support heart health, circulation, neuroprotection, nervous system benefits, and even boost athletic performance! It may also reduce the risk of cancer, owing to its free radical prevention.
As a traditional herbal medicine, honeyberry was used for:
- Supporting liver health and diseases
- Colds and flu
- Wound healing
What does honeyberry taste like?
It’s a wonder honeyberry hasn’t become an extremely common mainstream fruit, let alone one that has been cultivated into domestication over the centuries! At its core, honeyberry or haskap is a wild berry. It’s only recently that it had become domesticated for any type of improved flavor and nutrition (though honeyberry was definitely always tasty and healthfully abundant as a wild berry, long before it was ever cultivated purposefully by humans).
Those who taste it say it’s a lot like a cross between a blueberry and raspberry in flavor. The name of the berry says it all: it can be very sweet! Though some may be a bit sourer or tart, combined with sweetness.
It’s important that you pick the berry when it is fully ripened for the sweetest profile. This may be the most challenging thing about haskaps or honeyberries: you can only tell when they are ripe once you have peeled them. The inner skin must be dark blue or purple and not green—unfortunately, though, the outer skin always looks blue or purple, so you don’t know until you’ve peeled it. And if you peel it, you’ve lost the chance to let it ripen!
Unripe honeyberries can be bittersweet, but when ripened, their flavor is very pleasant. When it comes to food alone, these berries make excellent jams, jellies, preserves, sauces, or additions to juices or smoothies.
What is the best type of honeyberry?
All honeyberries are delicious. However, as some of them have been slowly cultivated and domesticated over time, there are cultivars and varieties nowadays that may be considered sweeter or more desirable than others for one reason or another (or simply due to preference).
Many report that the varieties cultivated in Russia and Japan are notably the sweetest of all, especially because these regions and cultures have been growing them domestically for far longer than other cultures or areas. Those labeled or called haskaps may be the most reliably sweet and tasty because the native Ainu word “haskap” means they are probably Japanese in origin, long cultivated by native groups there, and thus probably bred to be sweeter.
Like anything else, the best honeyberry may also come down to personal opinion! Some prefer sweet while others prefer tartness. There are many different cultivars of honeyberry to buy, try, and even grow yourself with either tart, sweet, or even bittersweet qualities; it’s up to you to decide which you think is the best.
Where to buy honeyberry or haskap
For those who don’t want to cultivate their own honeyberry and who don’t want to gamble picking underripe berries— can you buy honeyberry? And where can you buy it?
You’re not likely to find it at grocery stores or supermarkets, though you may find it at local farmers’ markets in areas where it is popular (such as Russia, China, or Japan). The trouble with buying the berries specifically, however, is that you may get a large amount, but not all of them will be ripened!
One of the best ways to buy honeyberry or haskap berry is to purchase it as a powder. We do the work of sorting ripe from unripe berries, naturally processing them into an easy-to-use Haskap berry powder for many purposes: seasoning, adding to juices, or even taking in an abundantly healthful supplement form.