A Nod to the North: Boreal Berry Farm | Ontario Culinary
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A Nod to the North: Boreal Berry Farm

I’m fascinated by Northern Ontario. Every time I hear or read something, I feel like I’m learning something new. Despite it being almost in our backyard–at over 700km, that’s a big almost–it still seems so mysterious and exotic.

There is no giant ice wall separating us from the North, just a plane, train or paddle. It’s not the ice-y barren place I once imagined. In fact, it’s teaming with delicious produce, innovative farmers, talented chefs, brewers and even wine makers!

Haskap berries are just one of the unique edibles being brought to the table by Boreal Berry Farm and Winery; one of Northern Ontario’s coolest farms–literally, as they’re 40 minutes out of Sudbury.

Haskap berries grow on bushes–like oddly shaped blueberries.

The Meliens are one of only a handful of haskap growers in Canada right now.

Haskap is a honeysuckle relative, native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere. I had to dig a little to find out more about this curious cold-loving berry, but what I discovered has the whole office buzzing:

“Blue-berried honeysuckle can be used in pastries, jams, juice, wine, ice cream, yogurt, sauces, and candies. When frozen fruit is placed in the mouth it melts away… The skins simply disintegrate which has caused some excitement amongst ice cream and smoothie makers.”

As avid ice cream lovers, we’re sold! According to the University of Saskatchewan–who by the way have done an impressive amount of research–haskaps come in a few varieties: The good varieties taste something like a hybrid of a blueberry & raspberry. The bad ones taste like tonic water–grassy and bitter!

According to Not Far From The Tree, they are also super high in vitamin A and C and rich in antioxidants.

“These fruits and vegetables are suitable for -30 plus winters (and) it doesn’t affect them at all,” said Greg Melien, who along with wife Mira runs the farm and winery.

That’s right, winery. A word one doesn’t often associate with bitterly cold winters. The Meliens are doing it. They’re using their own haskap berries to make a wine similar in flavour to a Pinot Noir.

While they’re not currently accepting visitors, they have a CSA program that runs 18-20 weeks long. They’re offering a pretty substantial haul: 23 varieties of tomatoes, rocambole garlic, Montreal melons, ground cherries, chokecherries, Northern Kiwi, 6 varieties of lettuce, 3 varieties sweet peppers, 2 varieties cucumbers, pole beans, eggplant, swiss chard, bok choy, carrots, radishes, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower leeks, potatoes, onions, spinach, squash (summer and winter), turnips and peas.

You can also find their products at Eat Local Sudbury.

Haskaps For All!

Want to try a haskap? Why not plant your own? Haskap plants are available at the Evergreen Brick Works Garden Market–I planted one of these cool Ontario discoveries in my own garden last fall.

Not confident in your gardening skills? The Boreal Berry Farm CSA offer pick up points Sudbury, North Bay, French River and as far south as Muskoka.