The huckleberry is an interesting berry and its name came from a simple mistake by early American colonists. When they discovered the native American berry, they misidentified it as the European blueberry known as the “hurtleberry”, and then gradually over the years the name changed. Around 1670 it become known as the “huckleberry”, which later became the state fruit of Idaho.
Huckleberries are small and round, usually between a half-to-one-inch in diameter and look like blueberries but their color ranges from bright red to dark purple and even shades of blues according to species. Flavor-wise, they range from tart to sweet, with a flavor similar to that of blueberries.
Huckleberries are enjoyed by many animals, including bears, birds, and humans. Huckleberries are one of the Grizzly bear’s favorite foods and they often travel great distances to find them.
As we’ve seen with other berries, huckleberries contain many of the same vitamins (A, B, and C), minerals, sodium, iron, potassium, and calcium for a healthy diet. They contain high amounts of antioxidants that are helpful aids in preventing disease-related problems.
The huckleberry has also been given various meanings, and you may have heard some of these. The expression ‘I’ll be your Huckleberry’ means to be just the right person for a given job, or a willing executor of some commission. The name could also be given as a mark of affection or friendship to a person’s sidekick or partner. In the movie, Tombstone, Doc Holiday made the statement to Johnny Ringo, “I’m your Huckleberry”, meaning he would play his game whatever it was.
Another meaning was given in the 1800’s and mainly referred to the size of the huckleberry. Regarding the size the word became a synonym for something humble or minor, or a tiny amount, inconsequential. It was later that Mark Twain borrowed some aspects of the meaning for his famous character Huckleberry Finn. Speaking of this in an interview in 1895, he said his idea was to establish that Huckleberry Finn was a boy “of lower extraction or degree” than Tom Sawyer.
There are various recipes using huckleberries available on the web, from huckleberry jam and jellies, to pies, muffins, and more. If you’re in an area where you can pick your own, by all means do that and then make some huckleberry goodness.