Two years ago, my sister was looking at the display of Huckleberry products in the gift shop in West Yellowstone. She had a few bottles of huckleberry jam in her hands. Mike and I looked at her, but I was the one to break the news, “You probably don’t want to get that for your friends at work.” She shrugged, “Why not?” Mike shook his head, “Because huckleberries are everywhere. Laura and I took Cory to a gift shop in Utah and there was the exact same brand of huckleberry stuff there.” Stacey looked at her bottles of jam, “I can get these in Utah?” We nodded. “Why would I buy them here?”
Truth is, I’ve seen huckleberry products in Utah, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and California. Huckleberries grow in all of those states, but if you’re visiting Oregon from Utah, what’s the point of bringing back huckleberry jam? Are huckleberry gummy bears any different when I buy them in Utah?
Are huckleberries even real or are they just a cutsey name for blueberries? According to the Wikipedia entry on huckleberries, they are related to blueberries, but they are actually their own plant:
Huckleberry is a name used in North America for several plants in two closely related genera in the family Ericaceae: Gaylussacia and Vaccinium. While some Vaccinium species, such as the Red Huckleberry, are always called huckleberries, are closely related to blueberries but are not the same. Similar Vaccinium species in Europe are called bilberries.
You mean to tell me they even have huckleberries in Europe, but they just call them a different name? Which tourists are going to buy all this huckleberry crap? Why is it being marketed as a special at all?
The answer might lie with these folks:
This is an excerpt from their Mission Statement:
The mission of the Western Huckleberry
and Bilberry Association is to create a vital, thriving industry built around huckleberries and bilberries through information, education, and networking. The Association will achieve this mission by:
- Providing educational programs to members
- Supporting basic and applied research
- Encouraging sustainable huckleberry culture techniques
- Promoting improved production and marketing of huckleberries
- Serving as an advocate and voice for the huckleberry industry
Why do huckleberries need an advocate and voice? It looks to me like huckleberries are just a product that are stuck in all these gift shops across the western United States to just take advantage of tourist money. Next time you’re tempted to buy a bag of chocolate-covered huckleberries, remember you can probably buy the same bag at home and it will be just as stale.