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Old Fashioned Wild Huckleberry - Vaccinium membranaceum
The Advantages Of Planting Huckleberry Bushes
Huckleberries are a more diverse bunch than many people realize, with two main varieties from different genera growing in much of the country. Wild mountain or western huckleberries are in the Vaccinium genus and related to blueberries; Vaccinium membranaceum and V. deliciosum are two examples. Huckleberries also exist in the southeast and midwest sections of the country and are in the Gaylussacia genus; box huckleberry (Gaylussacia brachycera) is one such example.
Both types of huckleberry are wild and still not cultivated on a commercial scale. But you can get western huckleberry bushes for your home garden, and they are a fantastic addition. The shrubs are perennials, so you don't have to replant every year. They are also fond of shade, so if you have a section of your garden that is mostly shady and where sun occasionally hits each day, huckleberries would be perfect.
Even better: The huckleberry bush can handle cold weather. Western huckleberries grow in regions like Idaho and are no strangers to snow and below-freezing temperatures. If you need a cold-hardy garden, huckleberries are your friends.
And don't forget the most significant benefit of all: food. Gaylussacia huckleberries have large seeds and aren't very sweet, though they are edible. Western Vaccinium huckleberries, though, are sweet-tart hand fruits -- snack away -- and lovely when made into jams and baked into pastries. Huckleberry ice cream is delicious. Western huckleberries are a classic roadside farmstand treat, akin to strawberries in California and Texas.
Western huckleberries from the Vaccinium genus will be easier to find for home cultivation. They can take a few years to bear fruit when planted from seed, so look for seedlings that are ready to fruit or that will fruit within a year or so. Care for them well, and you'll be rewarded with an available supply of sweet berries.