Huckleberries (Gaylussacia Kunth) are so similar to blueberries that they have often been classified as the same species. They are not grown commercially and can be found in the wild in certain regions of the United States. There are more than forty different species of huckleberry but three types are the most common. The black or common huckleberry (G. baccata ), dwarf huckleberry (G. dumosa), and box huckleberry (G. brachycera) are all native to the eastern region of the United States. The black species produces a black berry while the dwarf and box produce blue berries. The evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) is actually a species of blueberry and grows along the Pacific coast.
A box huckleberry plant growing in Pennsylvania is classified as the oldest living thing at more than 13,000 years old, making it a survivor of the last Ice Age. The plant itself takes up a region about 1/4 mile in diameter. It is so big because it constantly sends out underground runners that develop into more plants. There is a public nature center dedicated to the huckleberry bush with walking trails around the plant.
The huckleberry plant is a small shrub that resembles the blueberry bush. The shrubs are either evergreen or deciduous depending on the species. They prefer to grow on high mountain ranges with a decent amount of precipitation. The plants are often seen as a weed, especially if they share a region with the more desirable blueberries. Huckleberry shrubs grow small, white and pink flowers in the spring. The berries then ripen in late summer.
If you live in a huckleberry region and would like to try them your best bet is to find a local source, such as a farmers market. Otherwise, you're going to have to dig through the brush and find a wild plant yourself. When selecting the berries, look for ones that are firm and dark. Shriveled berries are overripe. It is common to tear the berry's skin when picking them, which sadly means the berries will spoil faster. This is another reason why blueberries are more desirable than huckleberries, since blueberries are easily picked without ripping them. Huckleberries should be used quickly and will keep in the fridge for only a couple of days. If you live outside the huckleberry region you can purchase preserves and other goods by mail or internet sources.
The main difference between blueberries and huckleberries is their seeds. Blueberries contain numerous tiny seeds while huckleberries have ten larger seeds that make them less pleasant to eat. Both have a similar taste and huckleberries can be substituted for blueberries in most recipes as long as their seeds are removed first. This is most often accomplished by pressing the berries through a fine sieve. The berries freeze and can well and are often made into pies, sauces, syrups, and jams. Like most other berries, huckleberries can also be fermented into wine.
Check out Lometa's fabulous I'll be your huckleberry! w/u for more info on the history of this berry.
liveforever informs me that the huckleberry was deemed Gaylussacia for the chemist Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac
Gorgonzola states: "Box huckleberries are incapable of sexual reproduction and are restricted to tiny patches in the Mid-Atlantic. They're a threatened species, considered the single rarest plant in North America."
The Joy of Cooking revised edition, 1997