The Chester Garden Club’s first meeting of 2012 got off to a fine start with a presentation by Logie Cassells, managing director of LaHave Forests, who described the cultivation and use of Haskap berries, a relatively new agricultural product in Nova Scotia. The plants were first brought to Canada in 1967, from Japan, which is where the name Haskap comes from. It has been tranlated as “little present at the end of a branch”. The plant is a member of the honeysuckle family [Lonicera caerulea ] and, thanks to research by scientists at the University of Sakatchewan, who combined the best features of Haskap cultivars from Japan and Russia, we now have four varieties of the delicious berries growing in our province.
Logie noted that the climate of inland Nova Scotia is excellent for growing the berries and that, with amendments of the soil (cow manure and seaweed were mentioned), the crops have grown substantially in the two years since the first young plants were put in the ground. He stressed the use of biodynamic techniques in growing healthy plants and indicated that the company is planning to enlarge its acreage to accommodate the increasing demand for its products. The company has already been able to harvest enough fruit to supply a limited quantity to several small restaurants for their use in making chutneys and jellies.
Following his presentation, there was an immediate surge toward the table for an opportunity to sip some of the pure juice or try a bit of the dried fruit. Everyone remarked on the great flavour, which Logie describes as something of a cross between blueberries and raspberries. Calling it Nova Scotia’s “ribena”, he reiterated his point that the Haskap berries are very healthy because they have a higher percentage of Vitamin C and anti-oxidants than either of those other fruits. Members of the Garden Club are looking forward to visiting the LaHave Forests farm in June when the company will be holding an “Open Day” for those interested in growing and using Haskap berries. Anyone interested in learning more about Haskap berries can visit the website Lahaveforests.com for information on obtaining plants or products.