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Huckleberries are small round fruit that are edible and very tasty. The small berries resemble miniature blueberries and are often compared to blueberries. But they are their own unique berry.
A huckleberry plant can be part of different genus classifications. There are a variety of different plants throughout North American.
We pick our huckleberries mostly in Western Montana and Eastern Idaho. There are to varieations that we see the most. A bright red berry that seems to favor more sunlit areas of the forest floor and a darker purple or blue berry that prefers the shade of other bushes.
Sub-alpine elevations are the best place to find Huckleberries. You can hike all day and never see a berry bush. Climb up a few more feet in elevation and you will be surrounded by berry plants.
Huckleberries vs Blueberries
Did you know that the huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho? And the blueberry is the state fruit of New Jersey (I would have guessed Alaska).
Blueberries are harvested and sold commercially across the nation. Canada is the leading producer of lowbush blueberries and the United States produces the most highbush blueberries.
Huckleberries are almost always picked by locals who then use them for their own recipes or sell them to local restaurants or food producers.
Montana has classic recipes for chocolates, syrups, taffy candies, and more that are sold with packaging that say “Made in Montana” (you can see some of those goodies here).
Where Do Wild Huckleberries Grow?
We have already discussed the wild huckleberry plants are subalpine. They grow wild and prefer the slopes of mountains, forest floors (usually under other bushes), bogs, and lake basins.
Our family likes to camp and spend a day or two picking berries to keep in the freezer.
During the summer we also ride our dirt bikes to locations that we know grow berries and spend an afternoon or evening harvesting huckleberries to eat with ice cream or to bake into cobblers.
The plant runs a shallow root right under the surface and seems to prefer rocky and dry soil. Many people have attempted to duplicate this environment and cultivate huckleberry plants but this always fails and produces plants that do not provide fruit.
What Does a Huckleberry Taste Like?
The flavor of a wild huckleberry is unique. Once you have eaten a huckleberry, you will never forget the flavor (or the smell). It will always represent summer, warm days in the forest, and a slower life.
If a person had to describe the taste of a huckleberry it would be a blend of blueberries and cherries. They are sweet and fruity like a blueberry with a tartness like a cherry.
What Does a Huckleberry Flower Look Like?
Mr. T and I were out hiking on a rainy afternoon and I kept seeing these little white bell shaped things on the ground.
On closer inspection, I noticed that they were a flower blossom that was falling off a plant.
Huckleberry blossoms are a bell shaped whiteish green flower that have a translucent appearance. They are shaped similar to the berry that they later become.
They almost look like green berries that have prematurely fallen off the huckleberry bush.
Huckleberry leaves are oval and can be shorter (1 1/2-2 inches) or longer and a little more slender depending on the variety of the huckleberry plant.
What Are Huckleberries Used For?
Pies, jams, jellies, mixed in ice cream, or blended drinks are great when they are made with huckleberries. They can also be eaten raw, right off the plant is one of our favorite ways to eat them. When the kids were little, the berries never even made it into the bucket.
Dried berries can be used in backpacking foods. They are delicious when added to oatmeals or other warm cereals and they have also been used to make pemmican.
What Does I’m Your Huckleberry Mean?
If you have ever watched the movie Tombstone (with Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell) then you are familiar with the phrase “I’m your huckleberry”. (I dare you to go pick huckleberries and not utter this phrase at least once).
The saying comes from the 1800’s and implies that a person is “the man for the job” or has the capabilities to accomplish whatever task you want done.
Favorite Recipes for Huckleberries
My great grandma was a queen at picking huckleberries. One of her best recipes was a huckleberry crisp. It was a family favorite and we were always happy to help her pick berries when they were in season.
Huckleberry milkshakes are the 4T family’s first love. The majority of our berries are frozen and then blended with vanilla bean ice cream during all times of the year. Huckleberry ice cream is definitely a Montana favorite.
We also love to make fresh huckleberry sourdough pancakes. Breakfast, lunch or dinner. Doesn’t matter. They are good anytime.
An Adult Treat with Huckleberries
While we were picking berries this year, Mr. T and I discussed margaritas after a hot afternoon in the mountains. That is when we decided to try out a huckleberry margarita (very similar to a blueberry margarita).
Give them a try. They are yummy, refreshing, and you won’t find this blended drink on very many cocktail menus.
These cold, refreshing blended huckleberry margaritas are made with foraged huckleberries and minimal ingredients! This recipe works best for 2 margaritas at a time. If you don’t have huckleberries, you can sub in blueberries.
Per margarita, multiply as necessary
- 2 ounces 100% agave silver/blanco tequila
- 1 ½ ounces fresh orange juice
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon bar syrup or simple syrup, more to taste
- ½ cup frozen or fresh huckleberries
- ½ cup ice cubes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Small citrus wedge (orange, lime, or lemon…optional)
1. First, prepare your glasses: Pour the salt onto a very small plate (or use the margarita salt container you can get at the liquor store). Run a small wedge of citrus around the upper outer rim of your glasses. Roll the dampened rim into the salt mixture.
2. In a blender, combine the tequila, orange juice, lime juice, syrup, huckleberries and ice cubes. Blend until smooth.
3. Taste and add more a bit more syrup if the mixture is too bitter, then blend again. Pour the mixture into your prepared glasses. Serve immediately!
You can substitute blueberries for huckleberries if you cannot get huckleberries.
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