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huckleberry

A low branching shrub of the genus Vaccinium (V. resinosum), with very stiff and crooked branches, and producing a small, black, edible berry, of pleasant flavor. The fruit of the shrub. The genus Vaccinium embraces a large number of species, including also the cranberry, bilberry, and blue berry. The latter are retained for the genus Vaccinium, the various species of huckleberry being placed under the genus Gaylussacia, the common black variety being G. resinosa. — Webster, 1882

There’s something in huckleberries that opens the heart as well as the mouth. –Thorwald, the Norwegian Rover, Robert’s Merry Museum, 1850

     
The North American huckleberry (or more properly, whortleberry) is the name given to several closely related species in the family Ericaceae in genus Gaylussacia. These species plus some wild blueberry species are usually called huckleberries. They are round and small, typically less than 5 mm. in diameter, and range in color from red to blue/purple. The berries ripen from mid-to-late summer (July-August) on bushes that grow up to six feet tall in moist, wooded areas.

True huckleberries are found in the eastern states from New Hampshire to Georgia and as far west as Kentucky and Wisconsin. What is called huckleberry in the west is a wild blueberry.

Huckleberries are seldom cultivated; they are usually gathered from the wild. In Farmer Boy, Almanzo Wilder’s family goes berrying in the mountains in the Chataugay Lake area, about ten miles southeast of the Wilder farm. An early postcard view of the area is shown at right.

Living for fifty years or more, huckleberry shrubs prefer a light, acid soil with a pH of 4 to 5. Wild huckleberries don’t transplant well. Because the plants have a deep rhizome and extensive root system, what is usually dug for transplanting is no more than an actual branch, hence the high failure rate. There is limited success growing plants from seed collected from harvested berries, but these plants typically bear poorly. Leaves are green on both sides and 1-2 inches long.

     


     

Huckleberry Pie.

Put a quart of picked huckleberries into a basin of water; take off whatever floats; take up the berries by the handful, pick out all the stems and unripe berries, and put them into a dish; line a buttered pie-dish with a pie-paste, put in the berries half an inch deep, and to a quart of berries, put half of a teacupful of brown sugar; dredge a teaspoonful of flour over, strew a saltspoonful of salt, and a little nutmeg grated over; cover the pie, cut a slit in the center, or make several small incisions on either side of it; press the two crusts together around the edge, trip it off neatly with a sharp knife, and bake in a quick oven for three-quarters of an hour. — Fanny Lemira Gillette and Hugo Ziemann, The White House Cook Book (Chicago: The Werner Company, 1887), 296.

Line a pie-tin with a nice paste. Look over and wash the huckleberries and put in nearly 1 quart. Sprinkle over the berries, 2 level teaspoonfuls of white flour, then sift over that 1/2 cup of sugar. Place over all a top crust, and bake slowly. — Almeda Lambert, Guide for Nut Cookery (Battle Creek, Michigan: Joseph Lambert & Company, 1899), 331.

Put a good puff paste on to the pie plate with a rim. Fill the plate not quite even full. Heap the berries a little in the center. And to each pie of common size add four large spoonfuls of sugar. Put a few small, thin slices of butter, and dredge over a very little flour before putting on the upper crust. Bake according to size. — A Housekeeper, The American Matron or Practical and Scientific Cookery (Boston: James Munroe and Company, 1851), 87-88.

Mix four cups of berries in a pan with one cup of sugar, and fill the plates, which should be very deep; add a saltspoon of salt to each pie; cover, and bake quickly, as the juice will not be so likely to stew out as when long baked. The oven should be very hot, and the crust, like all others, baked till light brown. — S.D. Farrar, The Homekeeper: Containing Numerous Recipes for Cooking and Preparing Food in a Manner Most Conducive to Health (Boston: Published for the Author, 1872) , 94.

Make a plain pastry as directed in the last receipt; roll it out, cut out the top crust first, and lay it aside, and use the remainder of the paste for the bottom crust. After lining the pie plate fill it with ripe berries, well picked over and washed; sweeten them with two tablespoonfuls of sugar, cover them with the top layer of paste, wetting the edges to make them adhere; cut some holes in the top crust to permit the escape of steam, dust the pie with powdered sugar, and bake it in a moderate oven about half an hour. Be quite sure that both berries and under crust are done before taking the pie from the oven. If the berries are sour, more sugar must be used. — Juliet Corson, The Cooking Manual of Practical Directions for Economical Every-day Cooking (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1879), 143.

     

huckleberry (FB 17)
     pie (FB 17)