Some of nature’s freshest berries can be found at the local supermarket. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries and more abound. But some of their lesser-known counterparts can be equally as succulent; you just need to know where to find them and how to eat them.
Huckleberries are similar to blueberries, and are characterized by a flavor that’s sweet, yet simultaneously tart. In the Northwest, Native Americans once used Huckleberries for food, drink and dyes. Today, they’re a steadily growing industry in several states, including Montana. Shoppers there can find huckleberry preserves, candies, lotions, soap and more lining store shelves. In a way, huckleberries represent an industry that’s hard to replicate. They only grow in the wild; trying to transplant them or grow them commercially doesn’t work, and no one really knows why.
That means that if you want to sample these mountain berries, you’ll either have to pick them yourself or buy them. Those who want to forage for their treats should be prepared for plenty of competition—of both the human and animal variety. In Montana, eager “huckleberriers” start scouring the hillsides early. Black bears and grizzly bears also know when huckleberries are in season, and pursue the tasty treats as ambitiously as people do. The seasoned berry picker knows to make plenty of noise before heading into a berry patch to ensure no wildlife is around. This article from Montana Outdoors comes with a scrumptious recipe for huckleberry cobbler, once you’ve gathered your “purple gems.”
The chokecherry can be found across much of North America, but it bears particular significance in North Dakota, where it’s the official state fruit. The fruit, though often ignored, was eaten widely by Native Americans and early European settlers in North America. Chokecherries are mostly eaten dried according to WildFoods.info but can also be used to make jelly or jam.
Once the chokecherry was declared the state fruit of North Dakota, the class who initiated the chokecherry project planned a festival to celebrate the berry. Get the kids’ thoughts on their work from Find Internet TV.
This abundant fruit is a great source of vitamin C, but elderberries are most popular for their distinctive taste in pies, jams and jellies. Elderberry plants aren’t terribly difficult to grow, according to Cornell University, but keeping them under control may take a little more maintenance. Learn more about how and where you can grow elderberries from the university’s Department of Horticulture.
According to MSN Encarta, the fruit of some elderberry species are rumored to be used as treatment for sore throats (in addition to traditional uses in cooking and baking). However, some species of elderberry are poisonous.
The buffalo berry is a tart berry grown on a very tough shrub from the great plains of North America, and according to Encylcopedia Britannica can grow where other plants and shrubs might not survive. The berries ripen in late summer and is often used for relishes and jellies.
A recipe for buffalo berry syrup suggests that these abundant berries can work as a sweet syrup for pancakes and might make a nice change from maple for those looking for a new taste.
Sources in this Story
- The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Encyclopedia: The Huckleberries of Glacier
- Wildfoods.info: Chokecherry
- Find Internet TV: Chokecherry Festival in Williston
- Cornell University: Minor Fruits, Elderberries
- Britannica Online Encyclopedia: Buffalo Berry
- Culinary Musings: Buffalo Berry Syrup
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