Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Huckleberry: Yummy Fruits A-Z

Huckleberries are a wild berry native to the U.S. in the Pacific Northwest, found in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and as far as Montana, Wyoming, Canada, and Alaska. The berries are tiny (5 to 10 mm), similar to blueberries, only smaller and tarter in flavor, and the color can be red or blue. 

Native Americans like Montana's Crow tribe and Idaho's Nez Perce gathered huckleberries every season as part of their diet, as did our hardy pioneers who came later to settle in the area. The love for these berries continues to this day, and although people here try to grow them in home gardens, the preferred huckleberry can only be found in the wild. 

Huckleberries grow at elevations 2000 to 11,000 feet. I'm more familiar with those common in Idaho, where I live on the border (elevation 3200). They are Idaho's state fruit, and picking season is mid-to-late summer. I have never picked huckleberries, although I keep saying "one of these days." I am told if I do, I need to watch out for bears. Maybe that's why I have never gone.

I rely on our local farmer's market, where those who faithfully pick in the wild every year, bring in quart jars of berries to sell. I take them home, give them a good cleaning, freeze on cookie sheets, and store in plastic bags. I parcel them out over the year. They are excellent in pancakes, muffins, vinaigrette, sauces, desserts, and simply plain on cereals and ice cream. 

Wild huckleberries are good for us, too. They have five times the anti-oxidant capacity of blueberries according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. They are a good source of vitamin B, vitamin C, iron, and potassium. Lowering of cholesterol, protection against heart disease, glaucoma, varicose veins, ulcers, and pancreatic cancer are a few of the many claims. 

To buy, people can purchase huckleberries in niche markets and online. They are often a tourist item in stores where I live, with huckleberry jam and syrups being the most common products.   

Huckleberry Recipe

(You can substitute blueberries in this recipe, but 
you may need to add more lemon juice for tartness)

"Huckleberry Crisp"

4 cups fresh or frozen huckleberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup white flour
3/4 cup regular oats
1 cup brown sugar  
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted

In 13 x 9 inch baking pan (or 11 x 7) spread huckleberries on bottom of pan, and set aside. In small saucepan combine the sugar, cornstarch, water, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring until thick and clear. Add vanilla and stir. Pour mixture over prepared huckleberries. 
In bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add melted butter and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of berries. Bake 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. 
(Serve warm with ice cream). 

Huckleberry Joke

Huckleberry Books 

(Huckleberry holds the award for the most book titles; these are only some!)

--Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884) (the book that started it all)

--Huckleberry Hill; Huckleberry Summer; and Huckleberry Christmas (2014)
by Jennifer Beckstrand 

--Huckleberry Fiend by Julie Smith (2013)

--The Huckleberry Murders by Patrick F. McManus (2011)

--Huckleberry and Jake: How It All Began by Debbie Hester (2014) (picture book)

--Illegal Migrations and the Huckleberry Finn Problem by John S.W. Park (2013 (nonfiction)

--Johnny Mercer: The Life, Times and Song Lyrics of Our Huckleberry Friend by Ginger Mercer (nonfiction) (2009)

--Where the Huckleberries Grow by Agnes Rands (2000)

--Huckleberry Book: All About the West's Most Treasured Berry - From Botany to Bears, Mountain Lore to Recipes 
by 'Asta Bowen (1988) (nonfiction)

Huckleberry Songs 

(Huckleberry also holds the award for the most song titles! All are on YouTube) 

--"Huckleberry" by Tobey Keith
--"Huckleberry Shake" by Michael Hermiston
--"Honeymoon Huckleberry" by Matt Bowlin
--"Huckleberry Hornpipe" by Country Gazette
--"Huckleberry Gold Mine Song" by Huckleberry family
--"Huckleberry Duck" by Raymond Scott (orig. 1940)
--"I Huckleberry Me" - Big River (from Huck Finn musical)
--"Huck Finn Rap" by Z-Meyer & Daddy
--"Huckleberry Road" by Paul Larson (original 2011)

--"Theme Song to Huckleberry Hound" (video link)
(remember this guy??)



  1. Aside from the Hound and the Finn, I wasn't sure these actually existed!

    1. Surprising isn't it? Speaking of books, I wonder if competing with Huckleberry Finn helped with sales or hindered those books,

  2. I've never had huckleberries. I did see a bear once. Luckily, I was in a car at the time. Still, the bear was way too close (and the car way too small).

    1. I think a lot of people haven't. I had my first huckleberries in Idaho.

  3. Wow, that's a great post. I'm a huge berry fan but I can't say I've ever eaten a huckleberry. A new bucket list item! I can't wait to try them. A to Z Challenge is amazing, I'm learning so much.
    My A to Z blog is

    1. Thank you, Robin. I've been enjoying your blog on writing a lot. Some very useful information there :)

  4. I always wondered what Huckleberries taste like. They don't grow in South Africa, I don't think. :-/

  5. I've heard of these berries but have never actually seen them. (Though I did put some in a painting once.)

  6. Thanks for the Huckleberry recipe, it sound delicious. To think folks are risking their lives to pick such healthy eats but I guess you can't really blame the bear.

    1. Misha, thanks for stopping back. I don't think you would find them. Climate is all wrong there.
      Debi - I like the delicateness of this berry. Seem's it would be nice to draw.
      Spacerguy- You're welcome! That bear would only be hungry I guess :)

  7. Hi Sharon, I did not know that Huckleberry Finn was named after a piece of fruit. What does a huckleberry taste like? I don't think I have actually every even seen them anywhere. I'm now on a search. Enjoy. Maria Delight Directed Living

  8. I used to watch that cartoon!
    So how did 'I'll be your huckleberry' become Doc Holiday's saying?

    1. Hi Maria...They are tart and slightly sweet, better than blueberries in my opinion.

      Alex - I don't remember that about Doc Holiday...good question!

      Thanks everyone for your comments!!!

  9. I lived in Montana for 8 years and I don't think we ever saw huckleberries. I bet they are tasty in pancakes! I'm glad you featured Huckleberry Hound, haven't thought of him in years!


  10. Fun and mouthwatering post. That recipe!! I'm remembering how much I enjoy your blog, Sharon. :)

  11. awww...Huckleberry Hound. That takes me back. As far as I know there aren't any huckleberries in Australia but I'll confess to never having looked for them because...don't tell anyone, but I didn't know there was such a thing as a huckleberry.

  12. Val Kilmer in Tombstone as Doc Holiday, my favoritest line ever. "I'll be your Huckleberry."


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