Starling Travel

May 4, 2007

Huckleberries… Are They Real?

Filed under: Food — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Wild Huckleberry JamTwo 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?”

Wild Huckleberry Gummy GrizzliesTruth 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?

Chocolate Covered Wild HuckleberriesThe 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.


  1. If you are only finding “stale” chocolate covered huckleberries, you are probably shopping more commercial, touristy spots. GREAT huckleberry products ARE available if you look in the small, locally-owned shops when you are visiting an area where hucks are readily available. Huckleberries are one of the finest wild fruits that you can find in the Northwestern region. If you look hard enough, and maybe even talk to the locals, you can find tasty, one-of-a-kind huckleberry products that you will absolutely HAVE to buy for your co-workers back home.

    Comment by Carrie Gnauck — July 25, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  2. That didn’t sound like a commercial at all…

    Comment by Laura Moncur — July 25, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

  3. Obviously, you have not experienced “real” huckleberries. I’ve just come home from picking huckleberries in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Mt. St. Helens in southwest Washington State. Real huckleberries DO exist. They are NOT blueberries. They taste different and look different. After having my hands and tongue turn blue from picking and eating these delectable morsels, I can confidently say you are not going to experience the wonder of huckleberries by purchasing them in a small jar in ANY state. If you have any doubts about them, ask any self-respecting bear! Good luck.

    Comment by Bill Baumann — September 3, 2007 @ 8:25 pm

  4. huckleberries are amazing…they are my favorite food in the world besides watermelon. The tourist products you find are pretty expensive and usually not very good. If you want the true taste of huckleberries, buy a fresh gallon of them or even a frozen gallon. You can make huckleberry milkshakes, cheesecakes, muffins, pies, or even eat them bythemsleves. You cant grow them at low elevation because they wont produce berries(something to do with the snow pack) and that is why they are so expensive and rare. you have to travel into the mountains to find them and they take along time to pick , anywhere from 1 hour to 2-1/2 hours per gallon.

    Comment by huckleberry man — August 31, 2008 @ 6:13 am

  5. I’m from Utah. Are there huckleberries here? Not that I am aware of. And if there are they would be very rare as they need acidic soil and lots of rain- not what we are known for here. Just came back from Oregon/Washington where it was huckleberry season and they were ubiquitous and good.

    Comment by Susan — September 20, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  6. I’m from northern Idaho, and I can assure you that HUCKLEBERRIES are real! As a matter of fact, my husband and I make a large part of our living from processing, selling and promoting huckleberry products.

    Huckleberries are special because they are hand picked in the woods mostly in the Pacific Northwest states. Unlike the blueberry, they are not commercial grown (although research is being done through the University of Idaho and others to domesticate this berry). Also, there is a large difference in taste between a huckleberry and blueberry. Anyone who has eaten fresh huckleberries would know they are very different fruit from a blueberry or any other berry.

    You are correct concerning SOME huckleberry products. Huckleberry gummy bears and jelly beans are all produced in one factory and distributed through out the area (at least I am not aware of another factory that makes these candies). There is also a very large producer/distributor in Montana whose products can be found custom-labeled for many states in the area. But nearly every area where huckleberries are grown has local manufacturers of jam, jellies, syrups, and other goodies made with this flavorful fruit.

    And the reason why there are organization such as the Western Huckleberry and Bilberry Association is to inform the consumer about huckleberries, support legislation to protect our wild huckleberry stands, and to promote products made with huckleberries to the tourist market.

    Think of huckleberry products of the northwest as the same as the maple industry in the Vermont area!

    Comment by Sandy Dell — January 18, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  7. I was walking in the woods just off of a dirt road down from where I live,and found what I am pretty sure is an old stand of huckleberries.They have spread out over time and do’nt look very healthy.Because they have been shaded out.It looks to me to be a very old stand,because two of the trees have trunks as big as the top part of my arm.I would like to preserve some of these and transplant them to my yard.It’s like a piece of the past to me.Something very old past on down through the generations.I do’nt remember seeing any huckleberries in 35 years,and that was in Okefenokee swamp.To find such a big stand in my back woods is like finding a treasure.Sandra

    Comment by SANDRA — February 27, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

  8. Hi Sandra,

    Huckleberries don’t transplant well at all. The root system is very complex and often, trying to transplant a cutting will only kill the plant. May I suggest you check out Dr. Dan Barney’s research on the subject at It may be helpful.


    Comment by Sandy Dell — March 5, 2009 @ 11:43 am

  9. I purchised some “huckleberry” plants from my local nursery here in utah. The plants are doing awsome, they have about 75 plump green berries on each plant. But my plants do not look like anything that I can find on the net when I type in Huckleberry plants. These plants that I have, have got a very unique sort if triangular stock that has three almost surated edges around it. do i have huckleberries, or something else?

    Comment by Brandie Mahoney — July 15, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

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