Blue Honeysuckle Berries (Haskap): Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, and Growing Tips
Blue honeyberries, also known by their Japanese name haskap or hascappu berries, are still relatively unknown in the US. In the UK, however, these nutritious berries are rapidly gaining popularity among health-conscious gardeners looking to grow superfoods and superberries in their own backyards.
The elongated blue berries that are taking the UK by storm are produced by the blue honeysuckle bush, an easy-to-grow plant in the Lonicera, or honeysuckle, family of plants. Although also other Lonicera species produce berries, only the berries of the blue honeysuckle (Lonicera caerulea) are grown for use as food (the berries of the other honeysuckle species are mildly poisonous).
But not only are blue honeysuckle berries edible, they can also offer some interesting nutritional and health benefits. Many of these benefits are linked to their extremely high concentration of anthocyanins, flavonoid pigments that also give superfoods like black raspberries, purple grapes, aronia berries, and maqui berries their wonderful health benefits.
To get the full scoop on the nutritional benefits of blue honeysuckle berries as well as tips on how to grow these juicy berries in the UK or US, keep reading. At the end of this article you'll also find a nutrition facts chart that provides detailed nutrient information for fresh honeyberries.
Anthocyanins in Blue Honeyberries Linked to Many Health Benefits
In 2009, a group of Slovak researchers published a study that analyzed the anthocyanin content of six uncommon berries, including black mulberries (Morus nigra), Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas), dewberries (Rubus caesius), Blackthorns (Prunus spinosa), rowanberries (Sorbus aucuparia), and Lonicera caerulea var. kamtschatica, a blue honeyberry variety that is native to Northeastern Asia. In this study, honeyberries had by far the highest levels of anthocyanins. Fruits and berries rich in anthocyanin flavonoids have several potential health benefits, including:
Growing evidence indicates that anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory activity, suggesting that anthocyanin-containing foods and supplements might help prevent or fight certain inflammatory conditions such as gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in the June 2010 issue of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology specifically analyzed the effects of an anthocyanin-rich extract derived from blue honeyberries on human gingival fibroblasts. It found that the extract was capable of attenuating the inflammatory process that can lead to periodontal diseases such as gingivitis.
Good for the Eyes
You may have already heard that bilberries (wild blueberries) are good for your eyes, but also other anthocyanin-rich foods such as blue honeyberries may help keep your eyes healthy. A growing body of evidence suggests that anthocyanins can benefit eyesight in a number of ways, including by increasing circulation within retinal capillaries, enhancing night vision, fighting macular degeneration, and preventing retinopathy in diabetic patients. Furthermore, a study published in the May 2006 issue of the journal Experimental Eye Research found that blue honeysuckle extract attenuated the degree of inflammation in the eyes of rats with experimentally-induced uveitis. Uveitis, a leading cause of visual impairment in the UK and the US, is an inflammatory eye disease that causes swelling and destroys eye tissue.
Inhibitory Effects Against Colon Cancer Cells
A group of scientists from the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Maryland analyzed the chemopreventive effects of natural anthocyanin extracts against colon cancer cells, and found that all tested anthocyanin extracts inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells.
If you've been looking for ways to fight venous insufficiency or varicose veins through diet, adding anthocyanin-rich berries such as blue honeyberries might be a good start. Anthocyanins may help keep your veins healthy by neutralizing enzymes that destroy connective tissue, by repairing damaged proteins in the blood vessel walls, and by promoting healthy circulation. As an added bonus, blue honeysuckle berries contain high levels of chlorogenic acid, a phytochemical that may provide additional vascular benefits by controlling blood pressure.
Growing Blue Honeysuckle from Seed
Blue Honeysuckle, the honeysuckle species that yields those gorgeous blue edible berries, has been grown in Russia and Japan for years. In the UK, US, and Canada, however, these nutritious blue berries are relatively new. Here are a few tips for those interested in growing blue honeysuckle, or hascap, in the UK, US, or Canada:
- Blue honeysuckle is a hardy shrub that is easy to grow in the UK, Canada, and most parts of the US (plant hardiness zones 2-8)
- The best time to plant young honeyberry shrubs is spring or late summer. Young honey honeyberry plants can be purchased through Amazon.com here or through Amazon.co.uk here . It is best to grow honeyberry plants in pairs or groups – this will increase the rate of pollination and fruit production
- Honeyberry bushes often begin bearing fruit the year after planting; however, the yields will be bigger in subsequent years
- Blue honeyberry is one of the first berry crops to ripen (around mid to late June). A ripe honeyberry has a purple-blue exterior and a red interior. If the berry has a green interior, it is not yet ripe.
- Ripe honeyberries have a flavor similar to wild blueberries, with hints of raspberry, rhubarb, and saskatoon flavor. After harvesting, blue honeysuckle berries can be eaten like most other edible berries: you can eat them raw, use them as an ingredient in smoothies, juice them to make delicious blue honeysuckle juice, or cook them to make honeyberry jam.
Nutrition Facts for Blue Honeysuckle (Haskap) Berries
Nutrition facts for fresh blue honeyberries, or haskap berries, are provided per 100 grams (or 33 calories) in the chart below. The chart includes both the absolute amount and the Percent Daily Value for each nutrient. The Daily Values are based on recommendations for a 2,000 calorie reference diet – your actual daily needs for various nutrients may be different depending on your calorie needs.
Note: The nutrition facts table below is not comprehensive, i.e. fresh honeyberries also contain other nutrients and phytochemicals not included in the chart.
|Nutrient||Amount per 100g||% Daily Value||Comment|
|Water||82.7 g||NA||High water content|
|Protein||1.6 g||3 %|
|Dietary Fiber||6.7 g||27 %||A good source of fiber|
|Vitamin C||12.1 mg||20 %||A good source of vitamin C|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)||0.16 mg||11 %|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.02 mg||1 %|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||0.02 mg||1 %|
|Calcium||24.5 mg||2 %|
|Copper||0.06 mg||3 %|
|Iron||0.27 mg||2 %|
|Magnesium||13.5 mg||3 %|
|Manganese||0.14 mg||7 %|
|Phosphorus||15.1 mg||2 %|
|Potassium||211 mg||6 %|
|Sodium||9.3 mg||0 %|
|Zinc||0.17 mg||1 %|
1. B. Paulovicsova et al (2009). Antioxidant properties of selected less common fruit species. Lucrari stiintifice zootehnie si biotehnologii. vol. 42 (1), Timisoara.
2. A. Zdarilova (2010). Polyphenolic fraction of Lonicera caerulea L. fruits reduces oxidative stress and inflammatory markers induced by lipopolysaccharide in gingival fibroblasts. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 48/6), 1555-1561.
3. X. H. Jin (2006). Effects of blue honeysuckle (Lonicera caerulea L.) extract on lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo. Experimental Eye Research, 82(5), 860-867.
4. C. Zhao, et al (2004). Effects of Commercial Anthocyanin-Rich Extracts on Colonic Cancer and Nontumorigenic Colonic Cell Growth. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52(20), 6122-6128
5. Y. Zhao et al (2011). Antihypertensive effects and mechanisms of chlorogenic acids. Hypertens Res. 35 (4), 370-4.
6. I. Palikova et al (2008). Constituents and Antimicrobial Properties of Blue Honeysuckle: A Novel Source for Phenolic Antioxidants. J. Agric. Food Chem., 56(24), 11883-11889.