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Lesser known berries.

Jim Boxberger - Correspondent
Posted 3/27/20

With spring fast approaching, it is time to start talking about berry bushes. We all have our favorites whether it is blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or even grapes (that fall into the berry …

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Lesser known berries.

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With spring fast approaching, it is time to start talking about berry bushes. We all have our favorites whether it is blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or even grapes (that fall into the berry category), but what about honeyberries?

So you have never heard of a honeyberry, I am not surprised. Honeyberries are a treat that really shouldn't be missed. This relatively new fruit has actually been cultivated in cooler regions in Asia and Eastern Europe for centuries by farmers who knew how to grow honeyberries.

The plants are native to Russia and have remarkable cold tolerance, surviving temperatures of thirty to forty below in the winter. Honeyberries also called haskaps, are members of the honeysuckle family, Lonicera caerulea. Honeyberries bloom and fruit early in the season as they are used to cold temperatures, so in our area you can usually start picking them in mid to late June.

Honeyberries are said to taste like blueberries, but sweeter, and I had some last year as the plants we had in the garden center fruited before they were sold and they were really sweet. Enough so that these berries could be mixed with more tart fruits like blueberries for some great jellies or pies, as you wouldn't have a need to add sugar.

I highlighted some other unusual berries last week, currants and gooseberries, so that leaves just one unusual berry left, the thornless blackberry. The best part of the thornless blackberry is right in the name, it's thornless. The bad part is because it is thornless it is highly prized by deer, bear and rabbits for food.

These berries are twice the size of raspberries and have a great flavor, plus they are easy to harvest with no thorns to worry about. Ripening in mid to late summer they make a great treat for desserts, preserves and pies. Just thinking for all these berries is starting to make me hungry.

But before the advances of modern medicine, blackberries had another purpose. The use of blackberry plants for medicinal purposes has a long history in Western culture. The ancient Greeks, Europeans, and Native Americans used the various parts of the plant for different treatments.

Chewing the leaves or brewing the shoots into tea were used to treat mouth ailments, such as bleeding gums and canker sores. Tea brewed from leaves, roots, and bark together was used to treat pertussis, aka whooping cough. The roots, which have been described as astringent, have been used for treatment of intestinal problems, such as dysentery and diarrhea.

The fruit itself, having a high vitamin C content, was used for the treatment of scurvy. Needless to say that blackberries were very popular with early sailors as a simple way to stay healthy, unfortunately they do not have a particularly long shelf life.

Once picked, like many other berries, use them within a week or throw them in the compost bin.

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