Experience with Honeyberry

We got our first honeyberry harvest this year from plants that have been in the ground for the last 2 years. While we don’t have any complaints about the yield, the berries were ridiculously sour. We’re growing 6 plants of 4 different varieties (Borealis, Tundra, Indigo Gem and Cinderella). All the berries taste exactly the same, just like little sacks of vinegar, regardless of variety.

We’re thinking of getting rid of our honeyberries since they’re not edible. The only thing that’s giving us pause is the thought that this is our first harvest and maybe honeyberries get sweeter as the plants get older. Does anyone have any thoughts on that?


Very, very disappointing to hear this, but thanks for posting. I just bought 4 of these and planted them this spring. I’d heard they were pretty good and quite hardy.


Make sure they are ripe with real dark purple flesh before you harvest them. Mine are slight tart but not real sour.


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There was a thread awhile back where several people thought they were pretty good tasting. I think it was

It does sound like you are harvesting early, I have done that on many fruits where I went by color only the first year.

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Tony what varieties do you have? I am south of Kearney and am thinking of trying a few plants next year.

I grew two types, I forget which ones, I think Borealis and Blue Belle or something like that. They were supposed to be the newer, sweeter kind. Like the OP, I found them far too sour. People suggested I picked them too early, but even when I left some berries on the plants until they began to shrivel they were still ridiculously sour. I gave them two years of production and they were crazy sour both years so I ripped them out. That said, I have had some berries (unknown variety) from another home-gardener that I thought weren’t too bad, only slightly sour, so maybe some kinds are okay or maybe it depends on the specific site.

I have a few Russian varieties, probably not the best ones, but find the taste nice. Nothing spectacular, but definitely not bad (sour/bitter). They are at it’s best when soft to the touch and detach without resistance.


I got Borealis and Tundra. They are somewhat sweet and tangy.


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I’m growing 2 plants that are about 3-4 years old,that were picked up from Dr.Maxine Thompson at the annual, All About Fruit Show,held in Canby,Oregon.
The first time they bear fruit,I had that,boy these are tart!,reaction.
What sold me on getting the plants in the first place,was Maxine had on her little cardboard table,a plate with some crackers and a wonderful sauce/jam made from Honeyberries or Haskaps,these are the Japanese type.They grow better here in the PNW than the Russian ones,she said.
They do taste better now,probably an acquired taste and someday I may make a spread like hers. Brady

Yes, they are a tart berry, but they make outstanding jam and pies. For jam I use liquid pectin and the full 1:1 amount of sugar. Since the berries have such a sharp flavour to start with, you end up with a really nice, balanced jam that is not overly sweet. It has become a family favourite. Pies are great too, but the ripe berries are VERY juicy, so along with a bit more sugar, you will need more thickener than for something like blueberries.

Since they are so juicy, they also are a natural for sorbet, which also should be tart. The colour is dark, dark purple, even when frozen. I have not tried it yet, but I have read that the berries can be used to make good ice cream too.

For fresh eating, you really need to let them hang on the bush as long as possible, and they will get sweeter. If however, your bushes are not netted, the “Robbings” and other birds will pick them clean long before they are fully ripe!

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yeah, birds get most of mine once they turn color, first fruit of the year here is the main thing it has going for itself. Seem to struggle in full sun, so will probably move the rest of mine in woodland situations.

I haven’t had enough to make a solid evaluation, but I did find the Aurora to be more sweet than tart, and I also liked Indigo Gem. Borealis was a different matter, the ones on my bush never did taste good to me and I assume that it’ll get better. My plants are very small and so I’m a couple years away from knowing for sure. I do know the birds like them a lot.

Thanks for the comments everyone.

I don’t think ripeness is an issue with our harvest. We did try some before they were ready, they were bitter with an astringent aftertaste and of course very sour. After that, we waited until the berries started dropping to the ground on their own before harvesting. To harvest, we put a plastic plate under the bush. A slight shake to the branch or running our fingers across the berries were sufficient for the ripe ones to drop. The berries we collected were no longer bitter, just very sour and no other flavour.

We didn’t prune our plants or thin the crop. Is overfruiting even an issue with honeyberry?

The main reason we grew honeyberry is because they were touted to be an easier alternative to blueberries. We find blueberries very fussy. The requirement for acidity aside, they seem to be kind of winter sensitive. Really cold winters like 2-3 winters ago made ours lose most of their flower buds and we ended up with just leaves come the spring. Last winter was warm and they lost most of their leaf buds and we ended up with just flowers/fruits come the spring.
Honeyberry is definitely less fussy and we can get a bountiful harvest, except ours are not edible. We just can’t win.


I agree that they aren’t a good substitute to blueberries. Blueberries tend to be insipidly sweet. And wash and keep well.

Honeyberries are softer, have more acid, and tend to bleed from where the stem detached.

Usually when people say a fruit is good for jam or cooking, I interpret that to mean that they just aren’t very good but salvageable by cooking. That’s not the case here. Honeyberries that aren’t that interesting fresh, make a full uniquely berry flavored beautiful jam, much better than blueberry.


Depends on the environment . Blueberries are easy to grow on my property although the birds want to eat them all. The only similarity between blueberries and Honeyberries for me is the color. Mine have a odd strong taste. Many new varieties are being released and I expect the the flavor to improve. I only have Borealis, Honey Bee and Berry Blue. Honey Bee tastes the best. I will eventually replace Berry Blue with a better variety.

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I find serviceberries ( saskatoons) are an easier, yet similar fruit for those who find blueberries difficult … Or who, like me, have a dog who eats every blueberry that starts to ripen.



Your dog eats blueberries off the bush? Today I was out in my yard when I looked over and saw that my dog was pulling the sugar-snap pea vines right off of the trellis in order to get to the peas to eat!


My daughter’s dog did worse than eat the blueberries off the first bush she planted. That dog ate the whole bush down to the ground.


She will even walk on her hind legs to get the highest ones. She is sneaky and does it mostly when let out last time before going off to bed with the kids after dark.

I visited a nursery/berry farm over the border in NH that grows honeyberries, mostly for wholesale to value added producers. The owner is enthusiastic enough about them that he has planted 3 acres!


The neat thing is that his 500 bush test plot has many cultivars on trial and he can make recommendations for my area. #1 was Aurora, which I picked up as well as a Blue Hokkaido to complement Cinderella and Indigo Treat I got thanks to @Chestnut.

I look forward to paying Great Northern Berries a visit in late June to sample fruit…