posted Sep 25, 2014, 6:54 PM by Ivy Hunter   [ updated Nov 12, 2014, 2:05 PM ]
Huckleberries aka Gaylussacia, are very much like the blueberry. In fact, when conditions are perfect, they can grow to the size of small blueberries. Huckleberry bushes are of two types naturally - ornamental evergreen shrubs, and fruit bearing. The fruit is not as sweet as the blueberry, but as a seasonal wild edible it is a tasty treat. They are very similar in taste and smell to blueberries when fully ripe. They are slightly more sour and tart.

There is the black huckleberry rich in antioxidants known as Gaylussacia baccata which is growing all throughout the United states. You can tell this variety by the leaves, and height of 3 feet max. They like to grow in old stumps.

The Huckleberry along the ground, Juniper orberry - gaylussacia brachycera which is the box-huckleberry and is known by the height of only 18 inches or less. The flowers in late summer are white or pink.

Another variety is called Dangleberry - galussacia frondosa - which can grow to six feet and spreads by cuttings, and branches that are wide, often touching the ground and taking root.

Planting: Huckleberries love to grow in the partial shade of the redwoods, oaks, and Douglas firs found around Northern California. The soil they prefer is a very well drained light clay type of soil that blueberries also love. The soil is quite acid and that makes the redwood forest the perfect place for wild huckleberries to grow. They enjoy a light mulch from falling redwood leaves, and oak.

Their root system is no more than 4 inches deep in most shrubs. If planting in a garden, have peat moss and compost made to the right acidity of 5 to 5.6. The drainage is very important, although they need plenty of water. Their natural environment is the tropical redwood rain forests of Northern California.

Keep them in a cool slightly shaded moist and acid condition for best growth.

Remove the non-fruit bearing shrubs, and re-plant with fruiting types. They are very low maintenance and only need pruning every 5 years to encourage growth. This is similar to the forest burning cycles. Prune the awkward stems that are too thin to hold the weight of the leaves. Remove weeds from the base of the bush since many of their small root systems are along the surface of the soil.


Huckleberry Jelly

by Ivy Hunter   Makes 1 quart   Takes 15 minutes - 25 minutes

Finding a patch that is ripe in the wild is a delight. My favorite food from huckleberries is jelly, which can then be used as pie filling. My jelly recipe is very simple and preserves the sour flavor of the huckleberry.

1 cup organic sugar
2 cups huckleberries
2 cups purified water
2 packets of liquid pectin

Place huckleberries and water in a pan to bring to a boil, add the sugar and then the liquid pectin, allow to simmer for 15 minutes, or instead of boiling for 15 minutes, blend them well in lieu of over cooking. I blended them so I could preserve the antioxidants.
Pour this through a strainer to remove skins and seeds.
This yielded 1 quart. Use small canning jars as this is not a common jelly and it will be used sparingly. I use this within a few days as toppings for ice cream, waffles, desert, fruit, and pancakes. Follow canning instructions regarding sterile containers, hot liquid at the time of pouring, sterile equipment, and quickly seal the lids onto the jars. Allow to cool slowly.

A variation I used in the smaller jar on top was to add blueberry infused alcohol. I just used 1 cup jam, to 1/4 cup alcohol. This results is longer setting time, and less firm jelly - more of a jam texture. This goes excellent when spooned on top of coconut ice cream.

The smaller jars also make delightful gifts.

A second idea on what to do with the remaining skins follows:

Huckleberry infused wine

Take the remaining skins from the sieve and place them back into the boiling pot. Do not heat. Add a glass of white wine, and a small bit of honey or sugar. Allow to soak for 4 hours, strain and enjoy the huckleberry wine

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