What Does Huckleberry Taste Like?
Often used to make jams and syrups, huckleberries are the official state fruit of Idaho and a great way to add a sweet touch to your dishes. If you haven’t tried huckleberries yet, get ready to fall in love with them!
So, what does huckleberry taste like? Huckleberries have a sweet, tart taste, with certain varieties sweeter and tarter than the others. They are often compared to blueberries and have a somewhat similar flavor and appearance.
Read on to find out more about how the taste of huckleberries varies between the different colors, how it compares to similar fruits like blueberries, and much more!
What Are Huckleberries?
Huckleberry is a term used to refer to several different plants that grow in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, especially in Montana.
They belong to the Ericaceae family of flowering plants, all of which grow small berries that vary in colors ranging from red to blue and even black.
Huckleberries are small, round, and bear many similarities to blueberries. These are wild berries and are rarely intentionally cultivated, as it is absurdly difficult, which is why it is often difficult to find them in supermarkets.
These small berries ripen during mid-summer and often reach their peak in August, depending on the variety, location, and growing conditions.
You can go huckleberry picking in the wild, which can be a super fun activity!
Be careful of grizzly bears though — huckleberries are one of their favorite foods and they are willing to travel great distances to get them! Also, take an experienced guide along with you to avoid the risk of accidentally picking poisonous berries.
Huckleberries are rich in fiber content and a great source of vitamin C, giving them immunity-strengthening properties.
They also prevent diseases like anemia and help build collagen production in your skin making you look younger.
Huckleberries are best used as a principal ingredient for pies, cakes, crumbles, preserves, syrups, jams, and reductions, and can be paired with strawberries, vanilla, and cinnamon.
Some popular savory pairings include salmon, lamb, pork, cumin, yogurt, basil, tarragon, feta, and burrata.
What Do Huckleberries Taste Like?
Huckleberries have a sweet and tart taste, which may vary depending on the variety. They are naturally sweet berries, although some may be tart. Underripe huckleberries can even taste bitter or sour.
Huckleberries come in different colors — red, purple, blue, and black — and each has a distinct flavor and level of sweetness!
Red huckleberries are small, bright red berries that have a glossy exterior and grow no more than 10 millimeters in diameter.
They tend to be tart with lingering flavors of cranberry, rhubarb, red currant, and blueberry.
They may not be the best choice to eat on their own due to their tart flavor, but taste great when combined with one of the sweeter varieties or mixed with sugar!
Purple huckleberries are purple to black in color and have a more robust, sweet flavor with just the perfect hint of tartness.
As one of the best tasting huckleberries, particularly right off the bush, they are surely a treat for you to enjoy!
Blue huckleberries range from light to dark blue and are usually the variety most often confused with blueberries.
They are somewhat similar to blueberries in their taste and aren’t as intense as the red and purple varieties. The sweeter notes are a bit flat, but they include some tartness that is absent in blueberries.
Black huckleberries have the least intense flavor out of all the different varieties and are often the least favorite when it comes to taste.
They are more on the bitter and tart end of the flavor spectrum and lack the sweetness present in the other types.
They certainly look beautiful, but taste better paired with red, purple, and blue huckleberries, and are not the best choice when eaten on their own.
Huckleberry Vs Blueberry
Huckleberries and blueberries may look strikingly similar, but they are not the same! They belong to the same families and are close relatives, but they are two different types of berries with their own unique attributes.
Quick Comparison Chart
Here are some of the main ways that huckleberries and blueberries differ:
|Appearance And Exterior||Single berries grown on shrub-like bushes. Can be red, purple, blue, or black. They have a round indentation with another smaller circle.||High-yielding clusters of berries grown on shrub-like bushes. Can be blue or purple. The top looks like a bullet exit hole with little flaps that peel out.|
|Interior Color||Blue or purple when split open. Very juicy.||Pale green or white on the inside.|
|Seeds||Small, crunchy seeds.||Softer, tinier seeds in smaller quantities.|
|Taste||Can be sweet, tart, or a combination of both depending on the variety (i.e., red huckleberries are tart, while purple huckleberries are sweeter).||More uniformly sweet flavor, with some varieties having a more intense flavor than the others.|
|Uses||Used in a number of sweet and savory dishes.||Used in a number of sweet and savory dishes.|
|Availability||Found almost exclusively in the wild in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Can be difficult to find as they are not often sold in stores.||Cultivated and easy to find at the local produce section at the grocery store or local farmer’s market. Can also be grown in small quantities in your yard or garden.|
How To Pick The Best Huckleberries
Huckleberries are mainly found in the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest and thrive specifically in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
They are sought after by thousands of huckleberry lovers each year — from people looking to sell them, to individuals simply wanting to have a good time picking berries — and huckleberry patch locations are often a best-kept local secret.
Huckleberry bushes grow in the undergrowth of forests and mountainous areas, and can also be found alongside streams and lakes on higher ground.
Huckleberries are not very easy to find, and if you are a newbie, you may encounter several challenges along the way.
The best way to find and pick the best huckleberries is to be prepared, do your research, and take an experienced guide with you along the way.
When you do find the juicy little gems, you need to make sure that you harvest only the fully mature ones as they do not continue to ripen after being plucked.
The best way to tell if a huckleberry is ripe is by the way it looks and feels. Ripe huckleberries will be dull, not shiny, and are slightly soft when squeezed.
We recommend you pick huckleberries one by one to prevent damaging the bush. You can use a berry rake like this one to speed up the process and make it easier to pick the berries without harming the fruit or bush, but this practice is often frowned upon by locals.
How To Store Huckleberries
If you wish to preserve your huckleberries, you can store them either in the refrigerator or freezer!
If you’re keeping your huckleberries in the fridge, place them in a shallow container and cover them with plastic wrap. Do not wash the berries until you are ready to eat them. You can refrigerate them for 7-14 days.
If you wish to eat your fresh huckleberries right away or freeze them for later use, place them in a large bowl and submerge them in cool water. The plant debris will rise to the top of the bowl and become easy to scoop out!
Then, thoroughly rinse the berries in a colander and let them dry completely. You may use them right away or place them in a single layer on a baking tray in the freezer.
Once they are frozen, transfer them to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag and put them back in the freezer, where they should keep safe indefinitely.
Please note that huckleberries will start to lose their quality after 10-12 months in the freezer, so it is best to use them within this timeframe.
Do huckleberries taste like blackberries?
Huckleberries and blackberries both have a flavor profile described as sweet and tart, and both are sweetest when they are ripe. Huckleberries are harvested during the fall whereas blackberries are abundant during the summer season.
Blackberries have a dark inky shine with purple highlights and are soft, succulent, and juicy. Their taste can best be described as sweet and slightly tart with earthy undertones.
Like huckleberries, the level of ripeness of the blackberries will determine how sweet or bitter they will be. Unripe blackberries are bitter and start to turn sweet as they ripen. Fully ripe blackberries are sweet with no traces of bitterness.
Do huckleberries taste like elderberries?
When compared to elderberries, huckleberries have a sweeter and milder taste. Elderberries, because of their flavor profile, are mostly used in recipes where they are processed to develop a better flavor.
Fresh and ripe elderberries can be tart, tangy, or bitter. In fact, for many, the taste of elderberries is an acquired taste and they are considered too bland, bitter, and strong to be eaten raw.
There are several varieties of elderberries, out of which American elderberries are the sweetest. The level of sweetness is nowhere near blackberries or raspberries, though.