Huckleberry

Plant Use(es):Food, Medicinal

black mountain huckleberry - Photo by Jason Hollinger

Black mountain huckleberry – Photo by Jason Hollinger

Evergreen huckleberry - Photo by Franz Xaver

Evergreen huckleberry – Photo by Franz Xaver

Red huckleberry - Photo by Walter Siegmund

Red huckleberry – Photo by Walter Siegmund

Fool's huckleberry - Photo by Walter Siegmund

Fool’s huckleberry – Photo by Walter Siegmund

Common names: black mountain huckleberry, evergreen huckleberry, red huckleberry and fool’s huckleberry

Scientific names: Vaccinium membranaceum, Vaccinium ovatum, Vaccinium parvifolium and Menziesia ferruginea

Family name: Ericaceae (heather family)

PLANT DESCRIPTION

Black Mountain Huckleberry consist of bushes ~30-60 cm high that produce large, black berries that are very sweet and juicy. The Evergreen Huckleberry is a bush that bears sweet reddish-black berries, sometimes with a bloom.  In terms of Red Huckleberries, it is a bush that bears sweet, red berries. The Fool’s Huckleberry’s flowers are pinkish to yellowish-white with deciduous leaves found in clusters along branches.  The berries are oval capsules that are 5-7 millimeters long.

FOOD AND MEDICINAL USES

Huckleberries are often used supplementary to other foods. This berries are consumed to add micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to diets. Huckleberries were gathered from midsummer to fall and eaten fresh, cooked or mashed and dried into cakes.

Specifically, Red Huckleberries consumed in jams. Moreover, the Thompson First Nations people either dried, canned, jammed or froze Black Mountain Huckleberries. For Evergreen Huckleberries, many communities stated that they tasted better after the first frost of the year as the are ripe until December.  Children of the Nisga’a were found to suck the nectar of the Fool’s Huckleberry flowers as it tasted very sweet.  Additionally, the Fool’s Huckleberry twigs and leaves were used by the lower Stl’atl’imx to make a tea; however, it should be noted that Fool’s Huckleberry contains some of the same poisonous compound as bog-laurel.

In terms of medicinal uses, Red Huckleberries juice (though watery) was often consumed as a beverage in many communities to stimulate appetite or used as a mouthwash. Red Huckleberry leaves and bark were made into a decoction that was used for sore throats or inflamed gums.

General disclaimer: It is recommended that individuals seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally. The University of British Columbia is not responsible for any adverse effects that might result from the use of this plant.

OTHER USES

Leaves of huckleberries, particularly Red Huckleberries, were used in smoking mixtures for the Thompson First Nations people. Historically, throughout BC, harvesters had no difficulty in selling huckleberries, as there was always a demand of people willing to buy these berries.  Aboriginal harvesters sold large quantities to new settlers.  This added economic earnings to many Aboriginal communities throughout the province.  Moreover, the Kwakwaka’wakw cooked Black Mountain Huckleberries with salmon roe while the Sechelt smoke-dried Black Mountain Huckleberries using the plant’s own branches as fuel.

For the Thompson First Nations people, if someone gave you a handful of huckleberries, you were expected to give something in return; for this reason, huckleberries are considered an official fruit. Some coastal communities believed that the Red Huckleberry was created by Asin, the Monster-Woman-of-the-Woods, and that those who consumed the berries lost their reason and thus were carried off into the woods.

INTERESTING POINTS

  • Fool’s Huckleberry gets its name from the flowers, which tend to look like that of a huckleberry, but the fruit is dry and inedible, unlike the berries found on other types of huckleberry.

LOCATION IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Huckleberries can be found throughout BC, often in mid-alpine regions and on lower part of mountainous slopes.

LOCATION IN UBC

Huckleberries can be found in the UBC Botanical Garden, the University Endowment Lands and Pacific Spirit Park

For more information on black mountain huckleberry visit E-Flora:

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Vaccinium%20membranaceum

For more information on evergreen huckleberry visit E-Flora:

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Vaccinium%20ovatum

For more information on red huckleberry visit E-Flora:

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Vaccinium%20parvifolium

For more information on fool’s huckleberry visit E-Flora:

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Menziesia%20ferruginea

SOURCES

Pojar, J., and Mackinnon, A. (1994). Plants of coastal British Columbia: Including Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine Publishing.

Turner, N. J., Thompson, L. C., Thompson, M. T., & York, A. Z. (1990). Thompson ethnobotany: Knowledge and usage of plants by the Thompson Indians of British Columbia. Victoria, BC: Royal British Columbia Museum.

Turnery, N. J., & Cocksedge, W. (2008). Aboriginal use of non-timber forest products in Northwestern North America. Journal of Sustainable Forestry, 22, 31-58.

 Photo credits

Franz Xaver (selbst fotografiert – my own photo) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/06/Vaccinium_ovatum_2.jpg

Jason Hollinger (Huckleberries  Uploaded by berichard) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Vaccinium_membranaceum_1.jpg

Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cb/Vaccinium_parvifolium_14911.JPG

Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Menziesia_ferruginea_6643.JPG

Link to e-flora

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