What’s growing: Honeyberries

Honeyberries

Walking through the garden in the beginning of March can be depressing. The ground is all muddy. None of your grass has come in yet. And all of your plants look dead. But it’s also exciting as every week you see green buds on a couple of perennials that showed no signs of life the week before. The first two plants in my yard to awaken this spring were the lilacs and the honeyberries. If you’ve never heard of honeyberries, you’re in good company. When you flip through some of the more esoteric nursery catalogs though, you find all sorts of edibles that you’ve probably never heard of. Sometimes you read the description and the sales pitch catches your fancy. Most of the time, it ends there. In the case of honeyberries, we did a little further research and were intrigued. Then, when we happened to see a honeyberry on sale at the local nursery, we took the plunge and bought it.

So what is a honeyberry? A native member of the honeysuckle family, this shrub produces small blue berries, perhaps a cm in diameter. The sales pitch would have you believe that it’s like a blueberry, with undertones of honey. Not so much. As far as berries go, it’s immediately clear why this one never made the leap to the grocery store. It’s not that it tastes bad, but the quality of the berries isn’t what earns it a place of honor at Paper Crane Farm. Long before the early season raspberries hit the table, we’ll be eating honeyberries. The strawberries will still be green on the vine, but we’ll be eating honeyberries. We last picked a fresh fruit in mid-October, before the first frost. After six months or so of waiting though, we’ll have our first fresh fruit of the year. Priceless. This cold hardy shrub has something else going for it though. It’s shade tolerant. For me to add anything new to my overcrowded grounds, I first have to figure out where I can wedge it in. All of these summer fruits we love so much require full sun. But the honeyberry, nestled snug in the shade against the north side of my house, is happy and productive.

What I like: I get fruit when I would otherwise have none from a plant that grows where I would otherwise plant nothing.

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