Can I grow huckleberries in my garden? - East Idaho News

Can I grow huckleberries in my garden?

  Published at

Huckleberries are one of the prized wild foods found in the wild lands of Idaho. The official state fruit of Idaho, huckleberries are full of antioxidants, high in iron, a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Can I grow it in my garden?

Western Huckleberry

Several varieties of huckleberries exist throughout the United States and Canada, the Mountain Huckleberry or Black Huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaeum) is the huckleberry found throughout Idaho. This long-lived native shrub grows slowly and will grow anywhere from 2 to 6 feet tall. They require temperatures around freezing during the winter and do best when they have 1 to 2 feet of snow to protect them throughout the winter.

Can the Western Huckleberry be grown in your garden? Yes, it can, but conditions must be just right. Air temperatures during the growing season should be 70-80° F in the day and 40-50° F at night. Temperatures of 28° F and below will kill blossoms, so frost protection must be a consideration. You can cover it with tarps, blankets, or row covers. Applying water with overhead sprinklers when the temperature drops below 32° F will help as well. As the water freezes on the plant, it releases heat keeping the temperature close to 32° F. Apply a ¼ inch of water per hour continuously until the temperature climbs above freezing and the ice begins to melt. Huckleberries need full sun during the day but should be shaded in the hot afternoon sun. The soil should be well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH of 4.5-5.5. The plants grow slowly so if you are prepared to be patient, you may eventually get some huckleberries to eat.

Before you go out to the forest to pull up a huckleberry plant to bring home and plant in your garden, remember it is illegal to damage or remove huckleberry bushes from forests. You will need to buy your huckleberry plants from a nursery.


huckleberry pic 2
Stock image

A close relative of blueberries, huckleberries differ in a variety of ways. Blueberries have clusters of fruit, making them easier to harvest, huckleberries produce separate single berries or small clusters of berries. As a result, a blueberry bush will yield more berries than a huckleberry plant of a similar size. The interior of blueberries is pale green or white and huckleberries are blue or purple when split open. The seeds of huckleberries are harder and bitter if eaten, blueberries have smaller softer seeds. Both blueberries and huckleberries need acidic soil to survive and produce fruit.

Can I grow blueberries in my garden? Yes, but once again, the conditions must be right to get a crop. Soil pH, drainage, and sun requirements are like those of huckleberries.

Garden Huckleberry

huckleberry pic 3
Stock image

The garden huckleberry (Solanum melanoceransium) is commonly grown in gardens across the country. Its common name garden huckleberry is misleading. Where the Western huckleberry is in the Heath family, the garden huckleberry is in the Nightshade family. The garden huckleberry is more closely related to tomatoes and peppers than it is to huckleberries. The garden huckleberry plant gets two and a half feet tall, has herbaceous leaves and stems, and the berries resemble wild huckleberries. When ripe, the fruit is bitter, but can be cooked to make it sweeter. You can use Garden huckleberries to make preserves, pies or cooked dishes.

Can I grow garden huckleberries in my garden? Yes, get seeds started indoors in the spring. After the last frost, plant them in your garden. Rows should be 36 inches apart. Berries will be ripe 75-80 days after transplanting.