One of the key reasons I love travel is it provides opportunities to explore the flavours of a place. That encompasses eating in restaurants, trying local snacks and looking out for products I don’t see in shops and markets back at home.
Recently, while driving towards the historic coastal town of Lunenburg in Nova Scotia, Canada, my guide, Pam, pointed out a field with neatly arranged rows of bushes, about waist high. “Over there’s a farm growing haskap berries,” she uttered.
“Has-what berries?” was my response. I have to admit, I’d never previously heard of haskap berries.
Haskap berries – the next big thing?
Pam explained the berries originate from Siberia and thrived on Japan’s northerly Hokkaido island, the location of the world’s first commercial haskap farming. Farmers in Canada realised the climate and terroir of parts of Nova Scotia are also well suited to growing haskap. The berry is still being cultivated on a relatively small scale but, apparently, there’s excitement things could be set to take off.
Some people believe the berries will prove “the next big thing” in terms of healthy eating. At the 2013 World Juice Awards haskap was named “Best New Juice”. Haskap is regarded as a super-fruit due to the fruit’s high levels of antioxidants. The berries – which are blue and grow to around an inch long – contain high levels of vitamin C, phenolic compounds and anthocyanins.
Jamie Oliver in Canada
A life-size cut-out of Jamie Oliver greeted us at the Sobeys supermarket we popped in with the intention of purchasing a bottle of the juice. The British chef has a partnership with the Canadian supermarket chain, to promote eating healthily. I couldn’t help glancing up at banners bearing his image, hanging from the ceiling, as we sought out the supermarket’s Taste of Nova Scotia stand, showcasing products from the province.
Rather than buying just a bottle of the juice, I eventually picked up a box entitled the Haskap experience, holding a 150ml bottle of juice, two ounces of jam and 50 grams of dried berries. The packaging showed the measurements just as I’ve written them here – a mixture of metric and imperial.
The juice and dried berries are dark blue in colour. I found their flavour pleasantly tangy. It made me think of a combination of blueberries, blackberries and cranberries. Would I seek out the juice again? Yes. I look forward to seeing it on shelves of stores in the United Kingdom.
Recipe – Grilled aubergine with haskap berries and mozzarella
I came up with the following recipe for using haskap berries. It may be slightly unusual to use fruit in what is essentially a savoury dish, but the combination proved delicious.
1 Aubergine (Eggplant)
Mozzarella Cheese (150g)
Haskap berries (30g)
Salt and Pepper to season
- Cut the aubergine into slices up to 1cm thick.
- Brush olive oil onto the aubergine. Work quickly to avoid it soaking into the aubergine’s flesh.
- Place the aubergine slices with the oiled side up under a hot grill and cook until golden (c. 4 minutes).
- Turn the aubergine slices and grill for a couple of minutes.
- Season the aubergine with salt and pepper.
- Add chopped slices of mozzarella. Top with haskap berries. Replace under the grill until the cheese has melted.
- Serve while warm, either alone or with an accompanying salad.
Find out more about haskap berries and products via the Haskapa website.
Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.
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Getting to Nova Scotia
Stuart flew from Gatwick Airport to Halifax, Nova Scotia with Icelandair, via the airline’s Keflavik hub. See the Icelandair website for information relating to flight availability and prices.