Heirloom - Open Pollinated
Germination 3 to 4 weeks
Hardiness Zones 3 -7
Plant Size 4 - 6 Feet Tall
Chocolate Berry aka Himalayan Honeysuckle is a rare berry. Its tastes is reminiscent of semi sweet chocolate with a hint of caramel. It grows on an evergreen shrub that produces cane like stems averaging 4 to 6 feet in height. Very cold hardy plant although it will not survive in arctic or Alaskan winters it will do just fine as far north as zone 3 and as far south as zone 7. It is not heat tolerant.
Chocolate Berry produces creamy white flowers with purple to burgundy bracts in mid summer. The green berries ripen from mid July through early Autumn to a deep brown also reminiscent of chocolate.
The unripe berries contain high concentrations of capsaicin and similar compounds, although not in the least bit toxic it leads to a very hot berry that could compete with some of the worlds hottest hot peppers. In fact I used a handful one time in place of hot peppers in a recipe, they were not wholly unpleasant but not something I would savor repeating either.
It will grow in a wide variety of soil so long as it is reasonably well drained. There are no documented pests in North America although I suspect some renegade insects and birds will stop by for brunch from time to time.
It is not popular or well known perhaps because it is not commercially viable. The soft and delicate berries will only ripen in small batches, a few at a time, and require constant harvesting. The ripening schedule for home growers shouldn't pose much of a problem, however they are as stated soft and very delicate, harvesting with a hard hand leaves one with a handful of goo, somewhat like a snotty gobble berry.
The berries should be eaten right at their peak of perfection, once they pass their prime they shrivel up like a gooey raisin and drop to the ground.
The seeds of chocolate berry are very tiny, about the size of a carrot seed. Germination of these seeds isn't all that easy. In their native Tibetan lowlands they sprout in the warmer months, use of a terrarium planter is a good idea as they need both warmth and sunlight more so than many other plants we commonly grow. Once they germinate and sprout they are very slow starters. Their seedling mortality rate is also high, anticipate that about half or possibly less of the plants you get to sprout will ever reach adulthood.
Once they do reach adulthood fahgettaboutit ! They become highly aggressive and invasive so should be kept from overtaking more terrain than you absolutely want them to.