ever grown garden huckleberry??

LOVEZUKES(z7 piedmnt NC)February 20, 2003

i remember years ago my grandma grew a garden huckleberry in her garden in lexington.she would can/freeze them.they kinda looked like blueberries.i think she put lemon in them for pies which tasted good to me as a kid.are they worth growing?do they make good preserves?how hard are they to grow? any imput would help as i got a free pack of seeds from burgess last year -don't know wether to toss them or plant them.my seed starting space is limited.

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Search the forums for 'garden huckleberry'. There's been a recent discussion on them, with details on the good ones - and sources for seeds.
They're in the nightshade family, and evidently some of them are actually good-tasting (S.burbankii, etc.), but unfortunately most of what's offered by Burgess, Gurney's, Henry Field, etc. are the really nasty types - Solanum melanocerasum.
I grew some(S.melanocerasum)one year, and no matter how much leaching & soda treatment I did to remove toxic alkaloids, and addition of sugar, grape & lemon juice to provide some flavor & sweetness, there was still this discomforting metallic aftertaste.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2003 at 2:28PM
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Here it is:

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden huckleberry thread

    Bookmark   February 20, 2003 at 2:56PM
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LOVEZUKES(z7 piedmnt NC)

thanks. that was very imformative. i love this site-so much info from people who have tried different things.it saves a lot of work for me-i'll tossed these seeds and send for the right kind. i have to remember to use that search thingy. there are so many forums!!!!!it is the first time i have even seen that one-can't wait to get back and read more . i wish the pages downloaded faster and i was a speed reader.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2003 at 9:27AM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I have the S.burbankii growing and flowering in my garden right now. Can't wait to try the berries. Will let everyone know how they taste. Any idea how long from flowering until ripe berries?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2003 at 4:19PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I thought that they would grow about two feet tall, at least. But so far the plants are really small (but covered in blooms).

    Bookmark   July 26, 2003 at 3:39PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

OK. So a few of the berries were finially purple so I ate them. They were very juicy, surprised me how much. But they had no flaver. I mean absolutely none. No bad flavor, no good flavor. I am going to wait until the next group gets even riper and try again. The plants are absolutely covered in green berries so I know I should have plenty of taste tests (unless the birds eat these).

    Bookmark   August 20, 2003 at 10:19AM
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Keep those reports coming, Rita. I'm still interested in how they do - if they pan out well, I might want to see about trading for some seeds for next year.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2003 at 10:54AM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I keep waiting on those berries. The strange thing is I have a whole row of these plants right next to the rows of Tomatoes in my veggie garden. About 12 plants. They are just covered with green berries and more flower everyday so they just keep coming. But I will notice some ripe ones almost ready but I never get to eat them. Everymorning I notice anything that turns ripe is gone the next day!!!!

I can't see if the birds get in there to eat these but they could without my seeing them. Or it could be the Racoons and Possums that roam around here every night. I have no other explination for a lack of ripe berries.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2003 at 12:17PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Well, I have discovered that the Catbird, at least, does eat these berries as I saw one doing so this morning. The berries are also commonly eaten at night, which means its most likely the hoards of raccoons that roam thru here nightly.

I have most of them in my veggie patch by my tomatoes, but I do have one large plant in a pot by the side of the driveway that has been making ripe berries that I have been tasting. I must say that I can't believe anyone would grow these to eat. I can't see how they could make a decent pie as you need some sort of flavor for a pie. As far as eating them fresh, well sure if need survival food. They have a strange aftertaste that lingers in your mouth. I doubt anyone would volantarily eat them except me doing a taste test and I don't eat many of them.

I have decided that these are good to grow if you are looking to grow berries for the wildlife and need something that will fruit the year its planted and fruit heavily. Skip them if you want fruit for yourself, either fresh or for cooking or baking.

That said, I still can send you seed, Lucky, if you want some. I am not sure myself if I will grow them again but I grow all sorts of things to attract the backyard birds here so that is why I just might grow them. I am finished with my taste tests. Any other fruit is just going to have to be eaten by any critters around here.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2003 at 12:49PM
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cjlambert(6b Tulsa)

Rita - I had the same experience as you with S.burbankii. I tasted a few early in the season and found them wanting; but of course the mockingbirds think they're terrific. I've read that they will reseed so I may relegate a few volunteer plants away from the vegetable garden, just to supply the mockers with their fix.

To my taste, they do not rival blueberries. Perhaps next year we'll bite the bullet & do blueberries...

    Bookmark   September 5, 2003 at 2:48PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Not anything like Blueberries!!!! Blueberries taste wonderfull. I know some of the cheapo rag sheets that used to sell the garden huckleberries touted them as tasting like blueberries. HA HA to that one!!!!!

I have made myself a new garden bed this summer that I am going to plant Blueberries in by ordering them bare root for next spring. I have decided that I like the highbush the best as I have one of them and some low growing others. I never have enough blueberries to do anything but eat them off the bush and I have five shrubs. Of course, the birds love them also. So about 12 more blueberry shrubs will go in. Hopefully enough for me and the birds. :-))

    Bookmark   September 5, 2003 at 4:12PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I didn't even bother getting any seed of the garden Huckleberries for this year and also did not gather seed from the plants I had last year. We will see if they self seed like my Tomatillos always did. If so I will leave some plants. If you want to make pies plant Blueberries, not these yucky (but easy to grow) things!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2004 at 3:58PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I had plenty of Garden Huckleberries growing in summer of 2004 because they self seeded. Just as in the past, the birds ate them during the day and something, maybe racoons, ate them at night.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds does have them if anyone wants to try these.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 12:14PM
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pdxjules(8, Portland, OR)

Rita, My *guess* is that you can improve the flavor next season by cutting back on watering when they are turning color. In Montana - where Huckleberries are from heaven - the ripening season coincides with annual summer drought.

This method also improves the flavor and texture of tomatoes, so I'd give it a try!


    Bookmark   March 5, 2005 at 8:16PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I never watered the huckleberries last year, they were on their own. My tomato plants are heavily mulched and other than when I first set out the transplants, I did not have to water them either all summer long.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2005 at 11:42AM
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Jasper_Storm(z8 SnoCo,WA)

This is why learning the botanical names of plants is important. Some people are talking Solaneum and others Vaccinium.
This year I might be making Vaccinium membranaceum/rubus ursinus/vaccinium oxycoccus/vaccinium ovalifolium muffins (just what Granny used to call them.)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2005 at 7:22AM
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drygulch(z9 AZ)

pdxjules mentioned Montana huckleberries. These are actually an extremely flavorful blueberry that grows in mountain forests in the northern rockies. If you want a real taste treat, do a google search and order some Montana huckleberry preserves...awesome! You really need to taste hot huckleberry pie one day with vanilla ice cream. If that's not as heavenly as life on earth gets...sorry, I'm getting carried away with childhood memories.

Montana huckleberries are not actually related to "true" huckleberries. Here's an interesting article on the difficulty of growing the Montana species in cultivation: http://www.montana.edu/wwwpb/univ/huckle.html

    Bookmark   April 1, 2005 at 3:37PM
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tonitime(Z-6a / E.KY)

I grew tooo many Sunberry/Wonderberry/Garden Huckleberries last year ( Solanum Burbankii). The are very mild when raw.easy to pick as they grow in clusters. I would not use them raw, but often make pies of them. The good flavors then will sing out! Next week, i am thinking of making a roasted Sunberry cooked salsa from some. We bagged the fruits up into ziplocks and froze them..very easy. As prolific as these 2'X3 ' shrubby plants were, i have a feeling they will self-sow like weeds this spring in the bed where this experiment was located. I will grow them again this year, but only 2-3 plants....never 9 of them!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2005 at 11:25PM
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sthelena(Napa County USA)

There is a restaurant in SF that is run by two very famous chefs. One of them collects huckleberries in the wild and pickles them. They are really fantastic this way and go well with cheeses for a cheese course after dinner. I wonder if the wild kind taste different raw or if pickling garden huckleberries would lead to the same result? She collects the berries in CA so I am assuming they are not the Montana Hucklberry that was referred to earlier.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2005 at 2:08PM
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Sycamore1(z8 WA)

This is what I have found out after growing Garden Huckleberries (Solanum melanocerasum) from seed from Unwins and not getting what I expected. LOL! What I really wanted were Vaccinium spp, a rhizomatous family of plants (which I did buy this fall to plant in the spring with sallal, another native berry).

Unfortunately, even my county extension service was fuzzy on this question (first time I've stumped them in 35 years!) when I asked about safety of the Solanum berries. Through Google, I found several useful websites for both types of huckleberries and am now ready to go pick this year's very, very bitter Solanums (Solana?) and try for some jam (results to be posted later!!). BTW, birds, squirrels, rabbits, insects, and coyotes have universally left these alone.

Tradewindsfruit.com has a concise page of info on Solanum. It is from West Africa, is a variety of nightshade, is an easy to grow annual, and Wonderberry was hybridized from it by Luther Burbank (which they say has a superior flavor). They caution that the berries are POISONOUS when unripe (ripe is when the purple/black berries go from shiney to dull).

Berrygrape.oregonstate.edu has an excellent report on all things native huckleberry (the blueberry-like shrub) and caution getting mixed up at nurseries selling "garden huckleberries"--a very different fruit, which we all now know!

Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 3:45PM
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Baker Creek seeds does say they do not have much taste till you add sugar to them.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 9:26AM
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Posie(z3 MN)

I forget which type of Huckleberries I grew but they got to be 2 to 3 ft. tall and loaded with berries. They are not good raw. Wait until they are nearly black and then cook them and use like Blueberries. THEY MUST BE COOKED ! They use quite a bit of sugar and the lemon juice helps.I don't believe the berries in Montana and other mountain areas are taunted as Blueberries. They are an actual Huckleberry but are a Perennial Shrub. I don't believe that Blueberries grow out there. (Maybe I've started a discussion here, but I'm quite sure I'm correct)!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 9:47PM
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I grew garden huckleberries from seed I got from Gurney's or Henry Field, I believe. It was not burbankii or wonderberry. I had them in a 4x4 raised bed. they grew 5 or 6 feet tall and were loaded with berries. I waited for the day of the first fall frost and pulled the bushes and loaded them on a tarp and sat and picked off quarts and quarts of dull black berries. I left any that were not yet fully ripe. I made scads of lovely jam that almost tastes good. Maybe it is just an aquired taste, but we are thought the taste rather weird, and we are not fond of the jillions of seeds.
I am hoping someone who has grown the burbankii or wonderberry will respond. I'm hoping those varieties are better. I am desparate for an easy fruit that can be grown in this zone.
speaking of weird flavors,has anyone here grown the sweet varieties of husk tomato or tomatillos? Thompson Morgan calls them "golden berries". I tried one called pinapple one year and it was weird too.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 12:27AM
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About how long did it take for your plant's you grew from seed to produce any fruit?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 9:42PM
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micklex(Fed Way z8)

Yes, I have. They are an interesting berry. The ones I grew came free with a shipment from one of the catalog companies, I don't remember which- it is one of the varieties related to the nightshade. I can't say I'd eat them raw, as the berries I picked were still rather solid, but they were up to 1/2 inch in diameter. What I and my parents did with them is make jelly. It was an excellent jelly, that was also a striking magenta color. I probably wouldn't use them for anything else, seeds, etc, but for jelly, it's almost as good as Northwestern Red Huckleberry jelly.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 6:57PM
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I live in Montana and grow Huckleberry's. There are several things to consider when growing them. #1) You should consider the fact that the seeds you buy and plant should be from a similar "elevation" not neccesarily a similar zone. There are zones that are lumped together. I live at almost 7000 ft above sea level and can drive less than 3/4 of a mile and be at 5600'. #2)Huckleberry's should never be harvested before the first heavy frost and should almost be black and wilted. #3) They rarely taste like anything without sugar. #4) With the exception of syrups, jams, jelly everything else such as almond bark, hard candy are done with berry's that have been pulped and dehydrated. Huckleberry pie is awesome but don't bother with the crust, seeds have to go somewhere. Huckleberry fudge will bring tears to your eyes, but its made by adding Huckleberry jelly to the process. After all we all know that there are only two enemies to chocolate....Too much "heat" and "water". Not sure what your trying or wanting to grow, but I do know that elevation plays a major factor in the results. People from the valley are always wanting to get seeds or seedling. I give them whichever they choose. They do get berry's but they are generally not able to harvest for any good purpose. Best of luck on your venture. They are an awesome plant to grow. Happy Gardening. Cassandra

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 7:39PM
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We grew some from seed (Unwins: S. melanocerasum)in Denver, CO and they didn't have a lot of flavor, even by Thanksgiving. The funny thing that happened was that we found out that they had been growing wild around the house (my mother in law called them four o'clocks) and they were incredibly sweet! There was a guy on craigslist who said he knew the secret to growing sweet huckleberries but you had to buy something from his website first. I wish I had thought to save the good seed because I haven't seen the wild ones since. If it's any help, we never even bothered to water them or anything, maybe that was it?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 5:54PM
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There may be some confusion here related to the common use of the name "huckleberry' for several unrelated plant species. The term 'garden huckleberry,' refers to a nightshade, whereas the term 'wild huckleberry' refers to a group of plants in two related genera (Gaylussacia and Vaccinium ) which are native to the northern US and most of Canada. Based on the stated locations of those reporting quality flavours from their plants, I suspect the possibility of cultivated Âwild huckleberry being the reason. I find the nightshade berries to be insipid and seedy, as described above. I find the wild fruit and those from related cultivars excellent, and perfect for pies especially.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 4:25PM
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I think you're pretty well on target - most of the responses in this long-running thread, in which favorable accolades have been put forward have been for the 'true' huckleberries, produced by Gaylusaccia &/or Vaccinium.
That said, I've had reports from friends who know the difference, and who have grown S.burbankii and other 'wonderberry/garden huckleberry' selections, and some of these Solanum species evidently do have a reasonably good taste, right off the plant.
That was NOT my experience with S.melanocerasum - and as I stated years ago, leaching & soda treatment, grape juice concentrate, lemon juice, and lots of sugar still left me with a less than strikingly tasty product that topped off the taste experience with an unpleasant metallic aftertaste.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 8:51AM
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i would love berries for my garden.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 4:40PM
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I've got a bush (S. melanocerasum) that I bought at a nursery and planted in my raised bed. It's mid-August and it's loaded with 3/8"- 1/2" dark berries that nothing, including my wife and kidss, will touch. I guess I'll wait until they dry up a little like Salal and then try to make a jelly. Obviously I'll not be making luscious huckleberry pies like I visualized when I planted it this spring. It sure is a beautiful bush, though

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 6:54PM
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Since this thread is resurrected every once in a while, I thought I'd share my experience with getting these things to actually TASTE GOOD. Like Lucky said last year, I tried a whole lot of things without much success. Finally, based on some advice I'd seen in other threads/boards, I just let the dumb things hang on the plant last October until literally the evening before the killing freeze. Then, I let them sit in a bowl on my counter for two more weeks before cooking them. THAT did it -- they got soft and semi-shriveled before cooking, but actually had a pretty good, fruit flavor. I made jelly out of them, still have some, and it's quite good, especially on a PB&J on toasted homemade whole wheat.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 11:49AM
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i have heard that it's not just enough to wait till these little guys are black. They have to be black and given a chance to change from a shiny sheen to a dull one and get a softer texture, then they are ready. Just being black alone doesn't mean they are ripe.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 1:00PM
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archoo16(5b, MO)

Hi, I found this plant near my walmart last month and it had striking red berries. I saw these yesterday and they had turned a nice dark purple colour. Am thinking these are huckleberries, but would appreciate some positive id. The pics are pretty bad, but I was feeling awkward taking pica in walmart parking lot. So is it vaccinium parvifolium?

Here is a link that might be useful: Huckleberry???

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 10:25PM
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I'm new to this, and as I was reading was rather shocked to hear the comments against huckleberries. Huckleberries, like cranberries, bilberries and several others, are all in the same family, and if it's a true huckleberry, then it's a fantasticly flavored berry! In doing some research on this though, I did come across this tid-bit:

"Be aware that Solanum melanocerasum (a.k.a. S. nigrum guineense), found in the tomato family, is sold by some nurseries under the name 'garden huckleberry.' Garden huckleberries are annual plants that grow rapidly and produce attractive bushes. They are unrelated to blueberries or huckleberries, however, and produce a very different fruit that some people find unpalatable."

That was taken from :

Which as you can see is produced by the University of Idaho's USDA Extension.

The publication actually goes through an immense amount of information about huckleberries and includes several species that can be grown in various areas.. Hopefully that helps everybody, as it definitely helped me since I unwittingly also have grown some 'bitter mini-tomatoes' sold to me as 'garden huckleberries'...

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 12:23AM
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Talking about these?

There great if you let then ripen. They are essentially like sweet tomatoes reminiscent of a ground cherry.

No need to buy them if they grow wild. Not sure exactly the species but certainly of the S. nigrum complex.



I do not think you have a Vaccinium but an Amelanchier aka service berry. This is not a tragic outcome since these berries are also delicious. I tend to know because I eat these as well.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:40PM
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Forget "garden huckleberry". It will confuse anyone who has had an actual Gaylussacia "huckleberry".

This will authoritatively answer what it actually is.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:47PM
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Indeed, they ripen like a tomato.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:49PM
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