Chances are that at some point in your life so far you’ve come across the term “huckleberry.” But what exactly is a huckleberry?
What Is a Huckleberry (Bilberry)?
I first encountered it when I read Mark Twain’s famous book, Huckleberry Finn. As an adult it was mentioned in one of my favorite movies, Tombstone. Somehow, in all this time I had passed it off as some sort of fantastical nickname. It never occurred to me that it was a real thing. In my 30s as I spent more and more time poring over books on herbal remedies, the name started to pop up again and I was in for a surprise.
The term huckleberry is not just a nickname, it is the common name for a very neat little fruit (Vaccinium myrtillus) that I had heretofore never known about. If you go looking for it in herbal books, you are likely to find it listed as bilberry as well.
Huckleberry is a Superfruit
The huckleberry is part of the blueberry family. It is a shrubby perennial that grows in most temperate areas. It is high in iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, thiamine, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and zinc. The fruit is also well known for its tannin, anthocyanidin, and pectin content. This is another example of a North American super fruit hiding in plain sight.
Huckleberry Promotes Better Health
Huckleberries are a great choice for your morning smoothie or your fruit salad if you would like to work on any of the following conditions:
- Poor night vision
- Damaged retinas
- Macular degeneration
- Broken capillaries (a lack of strength and flexibility in the blood vessels)
- Varicose veins
- Circulation problems
- Dental Disease
- Urinary tract infection (leaves)
- Diabetes (leaves)
- Irritation in the digestive tract
- Excessive menstruation (repetitive cycles that are closely spaced)
- Crohn’s disease
Where to Find Huckleberry (Bilberry) Products
It’s possible to find huckleberry (bilberry) products in the store. You can look in a few different aisles. In the vitamins and supplements aisle you can find bilberry capsules and tinctures. I’ve found bilberry elsewhere at groceries in juice, jelly, and even kombucha.
You may also choose to grow this shrub at home. Most people say that the huckleberry is much sweeter than its slightly larger cousin, the blueberry. This makes it an excellent berry to have on hand fresh-picked for fruit recipes of all kinds. It just doesn’t need much added sugar to turn it into something delicious. They freeze and dry well and having your own may be the best option if you live in an area that doesn’t stock huckleberry in the grocery store very often!
I am currently on the lookout for a good nursery that supplies the plants. I’m determined to put a handful of these into an area underneath our evergreens this year. They have a great reputation for supporting a healthy aging process and I’d like to have them well established by the time my husband and I begin to think about our golden years.
Do you grow huckleberries? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences and recipes.