Monthly Archives: October 2015

Bioactivity and Health Considerations

A very well done paper on the bioactivity and health considerations of many o the berries we have studied during this course. (Vaccinium ovalifolium, Vaccinium uliginosum, Rubus spectabilis, Rubus chamaemorus, Empetrum nigrum)  I like that they chose 3 different locations in Alaska, but I think they could have done without climate change in the title, for it was almost not even addressed.  A good read nonetheless.  Antioxidants

Honeyberry, haskap pests

During this week’s lecture we learned about the Honeyberry aka Haskap aka Sweetberry Honeysuckle aka a plethora of other names. Two pests of this plant were mentioned but some important ones I’ve personally encountered the past two years were not. These pests are robins (Turdus migratorius) and leaf rollers (Archips rosana).

I find the Latin species name for the robin very appropriate, Turdus. Once the robins have located your Honeyberry patch, they will visit every day until the berries are close to ripening and will devour them before you get a chance to even taste them for readiness. The devious little creatures will visit your patch every year once they know you have them. The best way to battle these pests is to build a net cage around the patch. Just laying netting on top and around does not prevent thievery. Robins will sit on top of the net and slip under the net. The net must be several feet away from the berries and securely attached to the ground to prevent any sneaking below the net. I constructed a cage around my small patch using the smallest size of bird netting available and some old fence posts. Ground staples are excellent for securing the netting to the ground. I was able to harvest nine pounds of berries this year compared to the previous year of nothing! Next year, I intend to make a sturdier structure using ¾ inch PVC pipe, zip ties and bird netting. This will make for easier harvesting and look a little better.

The second pest I’ve dealt with is a leaf roller which for the last two years have attacked the growing tips of my honeyberries. The first year I encountered them I was not able to get a positive identification. This year, I captured a few samples and brought them to our local Cooperative Extension Service Office. The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technician identified them initially as the Spear-Marked Black Moth (Rheumaptera hastate), however, a later identification was made as the Rose Tortrix Moth, (Archips rosana). The recommended control method was the use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which I used but did not find very effective. I resorted to the best known method for insect pest control which is both effective and satisfying – pick and squish. I pruned my bushes this fall and removed all the leaves under the shrubs which could harbor overwintering pupae. Hopefully this next summer, I will see diminished problems with both the mentioned “pests”.

Honeyberry Antioxidants

Are Honeyberries the Newest Superfood?

If you’ve ever used honeyberries (aka haskap aka blue honeysuckle) in a recipe, you know how deep blue they are.  A handful of honeyberries can turn a whole recipe purple.  That much color has got to mean lots of antioxidants, right?  Research seems to suggest that they are indeed a nutritional powerhouse.  Here’s a link to a summery of several studies:   Honeyberry Antioxidants

Fairbanks Facebook Link

One place that has been helpful for tips about the best places to pick in the Interior has been the “Fairbanks, Alaska” public group on Facebook. This summer, folks were posting updates about when blueberries were ripe on Nordale, which picking spots were closed due to wildfire, etc. Here is a bookmark, although you do have to be logged in to Facebook to see the group posts:Fairbanks Facebook Link

Saskatoon Research

This is my favorite inter-net site go to site for information on the Haskap: Saskatoon Research . Dr. Bob Bors of the University of Saskatchewan is one of the top researchers in North American on the Haskap.

The Most Expensive Jam in the World?

Do you have extra money to burn, how about some jam?   Jam

Carotenoids in Berries

The ripened color of the cloudberry made me curious as the carotenoid content of the berry.  I found this research paper that compared carotenoid levels of 4 northern berries.  The cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cranberry (Oxycoccus palustris) and cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) were compared in this study.   Carotene

Acai Berries

I was seeing and hearing a lot about Acai berries recently, they are considered, I guess, one of the superfoods. For example there is info about them on the WebMed: Acai Berries. I was wondering what kind of berries are they and can they be grown here, in Alaska?

Bearberry Medicine

Berries have so many great health attributes (nutrients, antioxidants, vitamin C, even iron in some cases), it is not only the fruiting part of a plant that humans have used medicinally.  Before the advent of sulfa drugs, bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) was used to treat urinary tract infections and chronic cystitis.  It is still used in alternative medicine, and with the increase in antibiotic-resistant UTI bacteria, it is being looked at again.  You can take a commercial extract (pill), or make a tea from the dried leaves.  Uva ursi contains tannins (which shrink mucus membranes) and antibacterial compounds like hydroquinone and arbutin.  It is most effective when taken at the beginning on an infection, and should only be taken for up to 5 days at a time.

Caution–bearberry should not be taken as a preventative.  One of the components, hydroquinone, can cause serious liver damage. Do your research, check your dosages, and talk to a medical professional before you decide to try uva ursi for urinary problems.  Bearberry medicine

More about bearberries


I had never heard of bearberries before this class. I wanted to learn more so I did some searching and found this nice USDA fact sheet with a nice photo of the leaves:  Bearberries

Blueberry Pancakes and Fake blueberries

My favorite way to eat blueberries is in pancakes. Your batter shouldn’t be too sweet: the pancakes are simply a vector for delicious summer blueberries and maple syrup. Also butter. Maybe some cinnamon.

The Huffington Post published an article in 2014 that listed a number of (processed) foods that use the good blueberry name, but contain little to no blueberries. My pancakes might be simple fare, but using real fruit makes all the difference. Sugar, dye and gelling agents constitute the blueberry bits in many foods and while this shouldn’t come as a surprise, one line in the piece sticks with me:

“…if Hostess Mini Muffins can include real blueberries, at least according to the ingredients list, everything else has no excuse.”

Berry growing tips and recipes

If you are ever driving trough Ottawa here is a farm to check out growing strawberries, raspberries and Saskatoons. They include recipes for each berry with their descriptions. Nice pictures.   Berry farm recipes

Berry Lore

This was a fun page that had some berry lore and history on it. Although it only covers a few berries, it is still interesting.   Berry lore

Serviceberry, saskatoon processing and recipes

A quick introduction to the Serviceberry from the UAF Cooperative extension.  Includes storage, preservation and recipes.   Serviceberry

Attracting wildlife with berries

Give a Bird a Berry

This National Wildlife Federation site describes the importance of berry bearing trees and shrubs as a food source for birds and other wildlife and encourages people to consider adding them to their gardens to feed the birds.  Why not add a bush or two for our feathered friends.   Berries and Birds

Story Book on Berry Picking

Here is something new.  A berry picking story book.  Wild Berries by Julie Flett and Earl N. Cook as translator.

ISBN: 978-1897476895

Wild Berries 

Question about pollinators in greenhouses

When I was writing about the possible option of greenhouse for growing strawberries in this week assignment, I was wondering what do people do about pollinators for the greenhouses? Do you always have to have a beehive for greenhouse if your plants are not selfpollinated? Could you just open sides of it (somehow) and will it be enough for pollinators to fly in, especially here in Alaska? Could you somehow attract pollinators to get in greenhouse? I saw somw ideas of electrical pollinators, but it looks like a lot of work for any decent size greenhouse….

Raisins, Juniper berries and rheumatoid arthritis?

Gin-soaked raisins for rheumatoid arthritis?

My mother has RA, and her doctor told her that one folklore remedy is to soak raisins in gin, and eat 9 raisins every day.  While I’m all for enjoying the occasional drink with or without dried fruit, this seemed a bit funny to me, and I have done a little bit of surfing for more info.  Juniper berries used to flavor quality gin ARE known for their anti-inflammatory properties.  Raisins (yellow raisins specifically) are treated with sulfur dioxide to keep their color, and sulfur may have anti-inflammatory effects.  Plus raisins, like many fruits, have anti-oxidant properties.

Pro:  The People’s Pharmacy People’s Pharmacy

Con: Snopes Review

In the Middle:Alternative Daily

Verdict?  If you like raisins, and you like gin, it probably won’t hurt you and maaaaybe it will help.  Don’t like raisins or gin, or don’t drink alcohol?  Skip it!

Cloudberry flowers

This is a link to a comparative investigation of flower bud development in Male Female and Hermaphroditic cloudberry plants. Cloudberry Flower Development

Finnish Lingonberry Dessert: Vispipuuro

I decided to share another recipe! Here’s a dessert made from whipped semolina pudding and lingonberries, or vispipuuro. This is one of the finnish traditional desserts, something my mom cooks often, so it really reminds me of my childhood.

Ingredients for vispipuuro:

3 cups of water

1.7 cups of lingonberries (red currants are also a great choice)

0.2 cups of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

0.5 cups of semolina

Put the water and the berries to a pot and bring to boil for 5-15 minutes. Add sugar and salt. Add the semolina while stirring and cook it for 5-10 minutes, stir a little. Then let it cool down. Use a mixer to whip it till it is nice and fluffy, pink pudding. Serve with cold milk. Enjoy! S. Heikkinen.