Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a huckleberry and a blueberry? Huckleberries in the Pacific Northwest are closely related to both cultivated and wild blueberries. Their flavor is sweet, yet tart with a more intense flavor than that of the blueberry.
Huckleberries flourish in the Pacific Northwest as they prefer damp, acidic volcanic soil of which we have an abundance. After the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 it was one of the few plant species that had survived in pockets on the slopes and today it is flourishing and one of the main bushes on the slope. Found throughout forested areas in the Pacific Northwest from the coast to the Cascades, the most common type of huckleberry that grows west of the Cascades is gaining popularity as a beautiful evergreen specimen bush in yards all over Clark County with the added benefit of being able to eat this delightful fruit.
Wild huckleberries have more antioxidants than the commercially grown blueberry and come in a variety of colors: blue, black, purple and red. A one-cup serving of wild huckleberries has 85 calories, 14 percent of your recommended daily dose of fiber and more antioxidant power than any other fruit or vegetable except for lingonberries, which helps to fight aging, cancer and other diseases. High in vitamin C, it’s also an excellent source of vitamins A and B, potassium and iron.
The huckleberry has been a staple in the Pacific Northwest for centuries with local tribes gathering huckleberries as part of their diet and spiritual lives. Picking in the forests, the tribes used fire to help make clearings so the plants would flourish. They were consumed fresh or dried in the sun for use in the winter. When settlers started arriving in the area, they started preserving the berries through canning.
The huckleberry is very versatile and can be eaten fresh, canned, dehydrated or frozen. Try adding some fresh huckleberries to a large, green tossed salad with chopped walnuts and a tangy fresh huckleberry vinaigrette, or use in pancakes, waffles, muffins or coffeecakes where they add a rich, intense flavor. Or make some huckleberry jam, syrup, or candy. Warning, huckleberry jam is addictive on a bowl of vanilla ice cream or virtually anything else that you put it on!
Huckleberries have a tendency to tear when you pick them, so you need to immediately refrigerate them. To freeze, arrange dry, fresh huckleberries in a layer on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. When frozen, store in freezer bags or containers. Properly frozen they will last up to two years. To dehydrate, follow the directions for blueberries or other berries and store in a cool, dry place. Follow an approved recipe when canning huckleberries.
For additional huckleberry recipes and serving suggestions, check out Chef Scotty’s Market Fresh Recipes at https://extension.wsu.edu/clark/?p=8163. The Fini program provides help to SNSP consumers to purchase more fruits and vegetables at local farmers markets. Find out more at https://extension.wsu.edu/clark/healthwellness/market-fresh-tours.
Vicki Ivy is a Clark County WSU Extension master food preserver. For additional recipes, food preservation and food safety information visit https://extension.wsu.edu/clark/?p=1134. Have questions? Call MFP Helpline: 564-397-5366.