Haskap berries have a rich heritage in Japanese and Russian folklore. However, it was not until 1756, before its tasty and healthy secrets were officially documented in S.P. Krasheninnikov's "Description of the land of Kamchatka." It is believed the plant originated in Kamchatka and Eastern Siberia, however its seeds were carried by migrating birds to the Russian Kuril Islands north of Japan and Hokkaido, Japan's second largest and most northern island, where the first commercial Haskap industry was born in the 1940’s.

In Tomakomai, during the 1920s, Haskap was plentiful. The berries were harvested and eaten fresh or preserved using sugar or salt. The flavor of Haskap became so popular in Hokkaido that by the 1950s, there was a large market for the picking and the selling of these wild berries. At the start of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Russian scientists found Haskap berries to be rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Its high polyphenol and anthocyanins content is responsible for giving Haskap its deep red colour. It is also claimed the Russian processed Haskap into special drinks for their astronaut program and named it the "King of Drinks".

 

In the late 1950’s it was bred in the former Soviet Union. In the same decade, it was bred in Beaverlodge, Alberta, but was a horrible tasting decorative variety of the plant. In the late 1990’s flavourful versions of the plant started showing in Japan and Russia. A breeding program was started at Oregon State University, based on the Japanese selections.

 

In 1998, the University of Saskatchewan planted 4 varieties that Oregon State University developed and was selling. By 2008 the University of Saskatchewan had the most diverse collection of Haskap Berry seeds in the world. “The Father of Haskap in Canada” Dr. Bob Bors, Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Saskatchewan headed the breeding program and research on Haskap Berries in Canada. Dr. Bors improved the flavor of Haskap through cross-pollination, and was able to improve the flavour while maintaining the integrity and value of Haskap berries. Dr. Bors big idea was to crossbreed a newer northern Russian strain of haskap with a northern Japanese variety. The mix produced a fruit that looks like s blueberry, only longer and fatter. The payoff was its great taste; a grape/raspberry/blueberry or a raspberry/blueberry/black currant all mashed together, with a zingy finish.