My First Exposure to Huckleberries

For me to host a wild huckleberry blog is rather interesting.  I have never really been a big huckleberry fan!!  No really …..

Being raised in California and living in Wisconsin while I was raising my family, I never heard nor tasted a huckleberry.  Berries in my life consisted of raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, blackberries and blackcaps.  We raised berries in our backyard when I was a kid, but most of the berries grew wild in Wisconsin.  A fun field trip for my kids was walking in the woods and picking wild berries!

It wasn’t until the 1990’s, after I had moved to Idaho, that my new husband, Malcolm (nearly a native to Idaho), introduced me to huckleberries.

We took a trip with our two 12-year-old daughters to Elk River, Idaho where huckleberries are a main food staple!  He intended on introducing me ‘properly’ to huckleberries through the famous (or at least famous in our part of the world) Elk River Lodge that served the best huckleberry pie and huckleberry ice cream in the county!

Well, the pie, in my opinion, was pretty good.  They served it a bit warm and the berries were just the right sweetness.  But I didn’t really care for the huckleberries ice cream — I would have preferred vanilla instead.  Too much huckleberries for me!

Even though I did like the huckleberry pie (and still do!) , he had not convinced me that huckleberries were the “purple gold” I had been led to believe.

Next, I will share my first huckleberry picking trip . . . . where things got worse before they got better!!

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  • I just bought a farm in WV last fall and my neighbor wanted to pick my “sarvices” (sp?). Looks like a blueberry, tastes like a mild blueberry with undertones of almond?. Also lots of seeds – tasty but chewy. The trees are not evergreen, nearly 20′ tall and, though bunched around a scrawny young maple, NOT in shade. Matter of fact, just a bundle of weedy looking trees next to the barnyard. Very dark, the berries are in clusters. They have the same little “skirt” as regular blueberries. What are these things? thanks to all, so glad you are here. SFalcon

  • Hi, SF!

    Your description sounds very much like Amelanchier alnifolia! We have them here in Idaho too! In fact, this plant grows almost everywhere in North America, just about every habitat, elevation, etc… of course most places, there usually are not huge concentrations of them (and not as tall as yours), but with some notable exceptions. This is a very versatile berry!

    I was first introduced to them as a child in North Dakota, where they are called “June” berries… one of the first berries to ripen, usually in June, hence the name. In Idaho, most people call them “service” berries, or the slang, “sarvis” berries. In Canada, where they’ve had an active breeding and promotional program, they DO grow in HUGE patches. Called “Saskatoon” berries there, they are a major part of the weekend outdoor economy (like wild huckleberries in Idaho and Montana, or blueberries in Maine). I’ve also seen articles where these nutty little berries are called “Prairie” berries.

    They make an outstanding pie, and actually, if you find the huckleberry crisp recipe on this web site, that was actually adapted from a June Berry Crisp recipe I got at a banquet in North Dakota during the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commemoration. There are one or two companies in Idaho that make jelly or syrup out of June/Service/Saskatoon berries and several in North Dakota and other points on the map.

    If the “sarvis” berry plants are 20′ tall there, that means you offer a really good site… but not necessarily easy to pick, LOL. Most often shorter here, more commonly 5-10 feet in the sun, 10 -15 feet tall in partial to moderate shade.

    I’ve seen this crazy species growing from the sagebrush lands of southern Idaho, through all the rich, mid-elevation forest zones of northern Idaho, to sub-alpine high elevation forests of central Idaho. An amazing species, and pretty good little berry.

    “Mr. Huckleberry”

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