Thursday, March 19, 2015

Garden Huckleberries

Garden HuckleberryI'm trying a new fruit this year in the veg garden - garden huckleberries, Solanum melanocerasum. [Pic:  Rareseeds.com] These are different from the wild huckleberries of the mountains, which are related to blueberries.  If you go to the link above, make sure you read the reviews carefully.  

My neighbor grows these regularly and has had good success so I thought we'd try them, too.   I'm planting them next to tomatoes and basil.    

Garden huckleberries are native to the tropics [Africa] and are grown as an annual here.   They are relatives of tomatoes and peppers and cultivation is similar.   The bushes get 3-4 ft high.  They like rich soil and sun to partial shade.  The fruit is frost tolerant and should be harvested after the berries turn soft and matte [dull] instead of shiny.  The bushes are reputed to be very prolific and self sowing.  These berries aren't very tasty unless you harvest them after frost.  Do not eat them fresh!

 Here's a method for preparing them that I've seen linked to in several places:

Via Sandhill Preservation:
"Garden Huckleberry Recipe:  Place 8 cups of berries in a non-aluminum one gallon size pan and add enough water to not quite cover the fruit. As they begin to boil add a total of 1/3 cup of baking soda (a little at a time) and stir continuously. As you add baking soda, green foam will appear. Be sure to watch this carefully as it will foam up quite a bit. After adding the baking soda, cook for 10 minutes at a low boil. The mixture will continue to foam quite a bit as the berries are cooking. After they have cooked for 10 minutes, drain this solution off and rinse with clean water. The berries will still be somewhat hard. Next return the pan of berries to the stove, add 1/3 cup water and 1/2 cup lemon juice. Watch with amazement as the mixture changes from emerald green to a royal purple color. Cook an additional 35 minutes until the berries are tender and then add 2 3/4 cups sugar, 1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon extract, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup tapioca. Pour the above mixture into two 8 inch unbaked pie shells, then add a top crust or lattice and bake as you would a blueberry pie. You can also omit the tapioca and just eat the sauce or use it as an ice cream topping."

Here's a page from Heirloom Organics with growing information.  And another post from Garden Web with some interesting information.

And here's another page with growing and harvesting info from Mother Earth News, with a couple of recipes thrown in.

I've got my seeds started in the cold frame now and I'm looking forward to our first harvest in the fall.  





2 comments:

  1. I enjoy your blog more than any other! You are awesome!! You have peaked my interest in huckleberries and that linked me to ground cherries, which I plan to try as well! Our growing zone is 5A (West Chicago IL). Any growing hints?
    Your humble servant...Heather

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    Replies
    1. Hi Heather! You're very sweet! Huckleberries are really interesting, aren't they? And I've heard that folks have had good success with ground cherries, too. I'm curious to see how they turn out for you.

      We're in the same zone you are. I'm going to put mine in raised beds that have been amended with a lot of sand, leaves, straw and chicken poo. Assuming that I don't kill the seedlings. [Seedlings are not my favorite things to deal with.] I'll keep you posted.

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