Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Consider the garden huckleberry

The problem with growing your own fruit is that you have to wait years after planting to get a decent-sized harvest.  Enter the garden huckleberry.  This isn't the sweet wild berry that resembles a blueberry that you are most likely thinking of.  Garden huckleberries are firm, shiny, black and grow in clusters on bushes approximately the size of a tomato plant.  (For my "way up north" readers, think of big crowberries.)  Planted in the spring, it will begin producing mid-summer and yield an abundance of berries until frost.


You may read (as I did) that this berry is a great substitute for blueberries and can be used the same way.  Not even close.  Make sure that the recipes are specifically meant for garden huckleberries.  Tossing a handful of these into a batch of pancakes would result in mutiny at the breakfast table and you'd find yourself leading the charge. 

It is absolutely essential that they be cooked--boiled, actually--and they need some added acidity, like lemon juice.  When properly prepared, however, it is great as an ice cream topping, layered into a coffee cake, and makes a beautiful purple-filled pie.  It has a unique "wild" taste that may not be liked by everyone.  But if you're adventurous, want to try something different, and have a little space in your garden, you should give them a try.

Here's the recipe that I use.

Garden Huckleberry Pie Filling:

7 c. garden huckleberries
4 c. sugar
2/3 c. Clear Jel
1 t. grated lemon zest, optional
4 T. lemon juice

In a large saucepan, cover huckleberries with water and boil under tender.  Drain water, and mash berries using a potato masher.  

In another large saucepan, combine sugar and Clear Jel.  Whisk in 2 c. water.  Bring to a boil and stir until mixture thickens and starts to bubble.  Stir in zest, if using, and lemon juice and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.  Fold in the berries.

Ladle into hot jars, leaving a 1" headspace.  Process in a boiling water bath canner for 30 minutes.  Yields approximately 4 pints.   



Want to order some garden huckleberries for this summer's garden?  Seed Savers carries them; you can find them here.

5 comments:

  1. I wonder how well these would grow in our climate. We have terribly hot and humid summers and so little fruit really grows well here. I should maybe just give them a try sometime and see how they work. Thank you for sharing this post at the HomeAcre Hop. Hope to see you again tomorrow evening: http://blackfoxhomestead.com/the-homeacre-hop/

    ~Jenny

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    1. I'm in zone 4/5 but last summer was suffocatingly hot and humid and they did fine. I think it would be worth trying out. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Wow, this looks so delicious!

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  3. We have extremely hot summers (120's) here in the Mojave Desert and the garden huckleberry will overtake any bed it can. As long as it gets water, it grows and produces like crazy. Trying to find a special recipe to use the abundance of what didn't get eaten as we were picking. Yes, it is an acquired taste. This gives me some ideas. Thanks for the post!

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