Black Huckleberry is an iconic Northwest berry with delicious and healthy fruit. In our humble opinion (and the bears), this may be the best wild berry in the West!
Black Huckleberry produces a sweet purple-black berry, highly prized for both fresh eating and cooking/preserving. Summer in the Northwest isn't complete without a huckleberry milkshake or cobbler. And the joy continues into Fall/Winter with huckleberry jams, frozen berries, fruit leathers, and dried huckleberry "raisins".
What's more, the berries are a native food high in vitamins A, B, and C. They are also rich in antioxidants and can improve blood circulation!
The Black Huckleberry has elegant, thin, oval leaves that metamorphize from a translucent green into spectacular reds and purples as fall comes down. They have modest, urn-shaped, creamy pink flowers that bloom in the late spring. Their bark is yellow-green when young, maturing into a shredded grayish coloration with age.
They can be grown well under the California Foothill Pine since it does not cast much shade. They will also grow well paired with any of the acid loving ferns like The Ostrich Fern or The Spreading Wood Fern. For an ornamental companion consider the acid loving Blue Blossom Ceanothus - just make sure that it doesn’t block your Huckleberries' sunshine.
Environment and Culture
The Black Huckleberry thrives in moist, conifer-pine dominated forests, as well as alpine and sub-alpine meadows across the Northern USA and Canada. When young, they are a favorite snack for deer and need to be protected from browsing. Once established in a favorable location they are very hardy and drought tolerant.
The Black Huckleberry was and is a culturally significant plant to many Native Americans who carefully cultivated it in the wild. They used the berries in every possible way including fresh, dried, mashed, cooked and added to soup, frozen, pressed into cakes, or canned for winter use. The Black Huckleberry is also an important food source for many mammals and birds.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
They are slow-growing and need careful attention during establishment. They thrive in acidic, well drained soils, and taste best with lots of sunshine. Summer watering will produce bigger, sweeter berries. Harvest the berries in late summer-fall when they have fully ripened. They will be fully purple-black and firm, but with a little give.
If you have a large bird population, plants can be covered with netting to keep the birds from eating all the berries. The berries are superior to cultivated blueberries in taste, although they are slightly smaller and less productive. Use them in anyway you might use a blueberry - fresh, frozen, dried, in jams, cobblers, crisps, leathers, and more.
Native Range: CA, OR, WA, BC, ID, AK<a/li>
USDA zones: 6-8
Ease of Care: Difficult
Deer Resistance: Low
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Part-Shade
Soil Type: Light-Medium, needs acidic, well drained soils
Water Requirements: Dry-Moist, very drought hardy after establishment.