Has...kap...like, he 'has' a 'cap' on his head!
This new berry, which really isn't very new at all, is taking many by surprise. Also called the honey berry, it is native to Canada and Siberia, just like the saskatoon and blueberry. Its color is similar to the blueberry, but looks as if it has been stretched into an oval. Its flavour is unique to every taste bud. Many say it tastes like a blueberry, raspberry, and black currant all in one. It does have the richness of a blueberry, the tartness of a raspberry and the sharpness of the black currant. The flavour of a saskatoon is also detected by many.
It grows on a dwarf shrub, no taller than 8 feet, and often much shorter with certain varieties. Flowers will appear in spring even before the leaves! Fruit will begin to blush and turn color by June 1, luring many into thinking it is ripe before its time. One bitter and sour, unripe berry has been enough to turn too many off of this super fruit, that needs time to develop its full flavours and sugars. My advice to any who have this shrub and have felt misled by it: net it, and when you see it turn color and think it's ready, wait 3 more weeks! Waiting is key, but so is a good net. Birds know a good berry, and they know haskap! We have had an entire crop cleaned out by waxwings and robins in a little over 24 hours!
Nutritionally, haskap are one of the highest anti-oxidant berries known, beating out the wild blueberry, cranberry and black currant. It is excellent in smoothies, muffins, meusli and cupcakes. Our favourite way to eat it, is cooked into a sauce and poured over hot pancakes! Jam on our breakfast toast is a close second. As a jam, the richness of the berry is enhanced and brings out the flavour similar to a grape jelly.
Recently, a central Alberta saskatoon pie contest was held, and since I love to make pie, I entered. Growing up on the farm with 3 brothers offered me the opportunity to put my culinary interests into practice. I've made hundreds of pies over the years, some better than others, and saskatoon is still one of my favourites. This past spring provided perfect growing conditions for haskap and we had a bumper crop. I made several haskap pies and they were fantastic. However, this was a saskatoon pie contest, with rules stipulating the pie content had to be at least 80% saskatoons. I got creative and tweaked my recipe, passed down to me from my mother-in-law, and added haskap to the recipe. Long story short...I won! A comment from one of the judges was that the pie 'just had such a strong saskatoon flavour'. The secret to a great saskatoon pie...haskap!
For more information on haskap, or prairie cherries, check out www.littlecherriesontheprairie.com