Fruit producers say the nutritious honeyberry is easy to grow and perfectly suited to the Scottish climate. The first orchard of the soft fruit has already been planted north of the Border, at a farm in Angus.
But it is hoped production of the crop will increase to 5,000 acres across the country in the next decade.
Experts say the fruit has the potential to bring in important new income streams for farmers, with possible rewards of up to £25,000 an acre.
The honeyberry, which tastes like a cross between a raspberry and a blueberry and resembles a mini blue banana, has been hailed as the next big thing for Scotland’s fruit industry at a presentation organised by the Scottish Society for Crop Research (SSCR).
The seedless berries are packed with health-giving antioxidants, active polyphenols, pectins, tannins, and vitamin C. Tested against other superfruits, including blueberries and brambles, they consistently showed the highest level of antioxidants.
They can be eaten fresh or frozen and used in smoothies, yoghurts, jams and even to make alcohol.
Farmer Stewart Arbuckle first planted the crop, also known as blue honeysuckle or haskap, in 2014 on a 12-acre plot near Dundee. The plants take two to three years to fully mature, but he expects a small first harvest this summer.
The pickings will be used in various trials, including selling the raw organic fruit locally and to high-end restaurants.
He insists the berry is easy to grow and needs much less maintenance than other fruit crops. This means Scotland could become the world’s premium growing region.
“It has the added benefit of being the first naturally grown berry to fruit in the season – up to a fortnight earlier than local native strawberries,” he said.
“We’re calling it our local superberry. We can put berries back outside and into the soil, instead of in polytunnels and bags of substrate.”
LoveHoneyberry Solutions consultant Logie Cassells, who also spoke at the event, added: “We are pushing for more growers to plant them this year, as Scotland’s climate is perfect for them.
“An aim of 5,000 acres over the next ten years is ambitious, but achievable. Honeyberry orchards can achieve revenues from £10,000 to £25,000 an acre.”
Rex Brennan, of the James Hutton Institute, has been assisting the trial. He said: “Honeyberries originate from northern Asia, notably Siberia, and the blue-coloured fruit is of increasing interest due to its very desirable qualities.”