Huckleberry Domestication Update

The International Wild Huckleberry Associate was first founded to share the research of Dr. Dan Barney on the domestication of wild huckleberries.  When Dr. Barney’s facility at the UI Research Center in Sandpoint closed in 2010, and he retired a few years later, others took up his quest to domesticate the wild huckleberry.  (If you are interested in reading Dr. Barney’s research notes, click here!)

Recently, we found an update of the research conducted by others that followed Dr. Barney in this quest.  KUOW published the following article:

Northwest Huckleberries Could Be Close To Domestication

Dr. Amit Dhingra … has been researching the humble huckleberry at the Department of Horticulture Genomics Lab at Washington State University since 2013.

“There were so many theories that you could not take a wild huckleberry plant and grow it in another environment,” Dhingra said. “I’ve always loved challenges and that’s what got me interested, because it hadn’t been done.”

But Dhingra had another motivation to research huckleberries too. He wants to create a healthier berry for Northwest farmers to grow in the future

“Huckleberries have approximately four times more anthocyanin,” said Dr. Dhingra.

That not only gives them a deeper color and richer flavor, it also packs huckleberries with more antioxidants.


Last year, Dr. Dhingra’s interest in pursuing the best of wild huckleberries was documented in an NPR article:

“Domesticating the wild huckleberry is impossible,” says Amit Dhingra, associate professor in the horticulture department at Washington State University. “They have been established in the wild in certain conditions in the forest, and their genetics are suited specifically for that purpose.”

Instead, Dhingra is heading an effort to make a totally new berry, with some of the qualities that makes the huckleberry so revered. The goal is to create a berry that can be grown in multiple environments — not just shaded areas of high elevations, like the huckleberry. Instead, berry production would be a bit more like the blueberry, which grows in bunches on the plant rather than single flowers like the huckleberry. The berry also has to be easy to store and transport and, of course, taste as good as a huckleberry.

“The flavor of the huckleberry is legendary,” Dhingra says. The project began in 2013, so huckleberry lovers shouldn’t start checking the grocery stores just yet. These not-huckleberry hybrids have only just started to produce.




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