What is a Huckleberry? The Superfruit That Outshines Blueberries

A handful of ripe huckleberries

When you visit Montana or Idaho for the first time, you’ll quickly see everything huckleberry, from barbeque sauce to ice cream. What is a huckleberry? Keep reading to learn more about these unique berries packed with flavor and health benefits.

If you think all small, round, blue fruits are the same, it’s time to meet the huckleberry. These berries might surprise you with their unique flavor, impressive health benefits, and stubborn wild nature. Despite being hard to cultivate, residents from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Northwest adore huckleberries. Let’s examine what makes huckleberries so unique, explore the best ways to enjoy them, and learn why they’re worth every penny.

NOTE:  Like many plants growing across North America, there are different species of huckleberries. Because western huckleberries (found in the genus Vaccinium) are considered “true huckleberries” (according to researchers at the University of Idaho), that’s the type of huckleberry featured in this article. But that doesn’t make eastern huckleberry species — like the black huckleberry and box huckleberry — any less delicious!

Two hands forming a heart shape, holding huckleberries, with text "what is a huckleberry?" on a whimsical, decorated background.


Do You Love Huckleberries?

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What is a Huckleberry?

Often mistaken for their domesticated cousin, the blueberry, huckleberries march to the beat of their own drum. Small, round, and a deep shade of purple, huckleberries refuse to be tamed. Although plenty of researchers and farmers have attempted to cultivate huckleberry plants, nearly all huckleberries grow in the wild across the American Northwest and into Canada, primarily on public land and in national parks. Their resistance to cultivation adds to their mystique and allure, making a chance encounter with them in the wild a rewarding experience — provided a grizzly bear hasn’t set its sights on the same huckleberry bush.

What Does a Huckleberry Look Like?

Picture a blueberry who decided to go goth—darker, moodier, and with a hint of mystery. That’s a huckleberry for you. These iconic berries are typically smaller than blueberries — but what they lack in size, they make up for in flavor intensity. Each berry is a tiny burst of sweet and tangy goodness, ready to impress in everything from salad dressing to pie.

What Does a Huckleberry Taste Like?

A huckleberry tastes like a blueberry’s wild, tangy cousin who refuses to follow the rules. Compared to blueberries, huckleberries are less sweet and more complex. Their flavor profile ranges from tart to subtly sweet, depending on when and where they’re picked. 

Gondola over Whitefish Mountain in Montana

Where Do Huckleberries Grow?

These berries are like the hermits of the fruit world, thriving along mountain slopes, in forests, and around lake basins between 2,000 and 11,000 feet above sea level. Huckleberries love acidic mountain soil and can be found in isolated areas from Wyoming to Alaska. 

Huckleberries are as hardy as the mountain-loving folks who pick them, but it’s not just humans who are after these elusive berries. Bears absolutely adore huckleberries. In addition to being tasty, bears love huckleberries because the high sugar content helps them store fat for winter. And if you eat an entire huckleberry pie in one sitting, there’s a chance it might have the same effect on you.

Fun Fact: Huckleberries are the official state fruit of Idaho.

Health Benefits and Nutritional Value of Huckleberries

Packed with antioxidants and brimming with iron, huckleberries do more than just tantalize your taste buds—they’re a bona fide superfood. These berries boost your circulation, strengthen your immune system, and help your body adjust to higher altitudes. So, if you find yourself huffing and puffing up a mountain in search of these nutritional powerhouses, remember, they’re not just good for your health—they’re training you to breathe easier up there, too!

Native American Use of Huckleberries

Long before the first huckleberry appeared at a farmer’s market, Native Americans mastered the art of huckleberry picking. As a food source, they were sun-dried or smoked, formed into cakes, and wrapped in leaves to sustain Native Americans through the winter. But huckleberries were also used to treat heart conditions, pain, and infections. (And today, my family jokes about using them for “medicinal” purposes when we make huckleberry lemonade or a Montana mule!)

Cultural Connections to Huckleberries

From Mark Twain’s novel, Huckleberry Finn, to Hanna Barbera’s character, Huckleberry Hound, these little berries have made a big splash in American culture. Their quirky name and distinctive nature have made them symbolic of adventure and the unconventional—traits that resonate deeply within American folklore and entertainment.

There are also several slang meanings of huckleberry. At the end of the movie Tombstone,  Val Kilmer’s character, Doc Holliday, says, I’m your huckleberry.” The term huckleberry in this instance means you’re the right person for the job. In the berry’s case, it’s the right fruit to flavor huckleberry pie, huckleberry jam, huckleberry vodka, and a long list of other tasty treats.

Another common huckleberry phrase is “huckleberry friend.” It appears in the lyrics to Moon River, sung by Audrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This references Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn’s deep, long-term friendship in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. 

Where to Find Huckleberries

Fresh huckleberries can be difficult to find, even in Idaho and Montana. Your best bet for finding fresh huckleberries for sale is a farmer’s market, roadside stand, or specialty store. Even then, most of the whole fresh huckleberries for sale are frozen due to their short shelf life.

How to Pick Huckleberries

You can certainly pick your own huckleberries. But before you do, you must be sure you’ve correctly identified huckleberries and not another potentially poisonous berry. You should also avoid picking around dawn and dusk. Black bears and grizzly bears love huckleberries and snack on the delicious berries as the sun rises and sets.

Related Article: Be Bear Aware with These Tips to Avoid (and Survive) a Bear Encounter

Handful of Huckleberries

When to Pick Wild Huckleberries

If you want to pick your own berries, huckleberry season is typically from mid-August to mid-September. This is when huckleberries are at their peak, offering the best flavor and juiciness. But remember, timing is everything. These in-demand berries don’t wait around for latecomers.

Why are Huckleberries So Expensive?

Because huckleberries resist cultivation, they must be gathered by hand in the wild, where pickers compete with bears, coyotes, deer, and birds for the precious purple berries. When you can’t scale production and have to battle a bear for berries, the price goes up — a lot. In Montana, it’s not uncommon for a pound of huckleberries to cost $65 per pound. When purchasing huckleberries online, expect to pay at least $10 to $20 more per pound.

Sweet Peaks has the best huckleberry ice cream!
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

How to Eat Huckleberries

When you visit Montana, you will find huckleberries in a variety of packaged and ready-to-eat items including huckleberry soda and huckleberry chocolates. If you score a bag of fresh or frozen berries, you can bake them in a pie, simmer them into jam, or blend them into a vinaigrette. However, you incorporate huckleberries into your diet, they bring a touch of wild awesomeness to any dish. 

Sage Advice: While fresh berries are truly amazing, frozen huckleberries work just as well in any recipe.

Why Are Huckleberries So Popular in Montana?

In Montana, huckleberries are almost a way of life. Found in everything from decadent desserts to handcrafted local spirits, these berries symbolize the rugged, untamed spirit of the region. Plus, they’re delicious!

A Berry as Wild as the West

Huckleberries might just be the most adventurous berries on the block. They’re not just a treat to eat; they’re a challenge to find and a joy to discover. So next time you come across huckleberries, give a little nod to the wild spirit they represent—delicious, unpredictable, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Have You Tried Huckleberries?

What’s your favorite way to enjoy this delicious fruit? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Looking for more information to plan your Montana vacation? Check out my free Montana travel guide to help you plan your trip to Montana including the best time to visit Montana, what to see and do in Montana, the best places to stay in Montana, where to eat in Montana, and more!

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Thank you for sharing!

47 thoughts on “What is a Huckleberry? The Superfruit That Outshines Blueberries”

  1. I grew up in North Idaho and lived in Mullan. Huckleberries are part of my culture. In Mullan there was a colorful local character that we called Huckleberry Kelley. His hair and beard was long and white. He always had the first huckleberries and sold them from a street corner stand. With all of my child-like heart I believed he was Santa Claus, and selling huckleberries was his summer job. The Victor, ID Emporium is the best place for a huckleberry milkshake, by the way. Don

    1. That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing, and I’ll have to get a huckleberry milkshake the next time I’m in that part of the world!

      1. I’m from Michigan. My grandmother use to take me huckleberry picking. Always a marshy location. She’d make the best pie with them.

        1. Name a pie that’s more delicious than huckleberry? Go on, I’ll wait… 🙂
          And I bet your grandmother’s recipe was extra delish!

  2. Great article! Growing up we would visit Montana in the summers, and anything to do with huckleberries was always a highlight of our trip.

  3. I tried my first huckleberry product when we visited Yellowstone. It was huckleberry ice cream and I loved it. These fun facts make me love them even more! Of course, I came home with huckleberry jam and syrup!

  4. I have spent a many summers picking mountain huckleberries. I will travel to different states just to try huckleberry what ever. I have even bought cookbooks just because I want to try huckleberries in a new way.

  5. So, I had never heard of a Huckleberry except with Huckleberry Hound and of course the famous Doc Holiday Quote from Tombstone (though I think you may be on to something with the huckle bearer thing!)
    This is all of course until I met and now married a girl from Wyoming!! Now in my New Orleans Home, I have 8 jars of Huckleberry Jam, some sort of Huckleberry Margarita mix, Huckleberry taffy candy bags, and at one time I had huckleberry chocolate! I am surrounded by this sugary fruit cause my wife LOVES it.
    It makes sense that bears like it too now cause everytime I go to try one of her huckleberry candies she roars like a bear and attempts to maul me to preserve her treats!

  6. I was somewhat surprised about the range of the huckleberry, only in the northwest and Alaska? I grew up picking and eating them in south Alabama. My grandmother made jam and pies and wine from them. we had a patch in the woods on her land that was almost 2 full acres. All the grandkids were involved in picking when it was time.

    1. That sounds like so much fun! I believe the huckleberries found in the Southeastern US are a different type than mountain huckleberries. I’ll update this article and make that more clear. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!

    2. Southeastern huckleberry are not the same as northwest huckleberries. I have eaten both and definitely like the northwestern huckleberries the best. They are a delicacy!

  7. I just went this morning-Idaho panhandle. Only a few are ever bigger than a blueberry around here. I wish they were, it would sure make the bucket fill up faster. But we pick them and eat them at any size.

    1. I have picked them in Northern California; Humboldt County to be exact. They are a little smaller than a blue berry and they ripen about the same time as Deer Season. My Dad and my Uncles would go hunting in the mountains above Garberville and if they would let me go…….. I would pick Huckleberries.

  8. I didn’t realize that huckleberries were native to the northwest. That helps explain why those huckleberry pies from Idaho are so famous.

  9. Very cool read! Of course, it reminded me of Huckleberry Finn, as this is one of the books that made me fall in love with reading, at age 8. But to find out about these awesome fruits, and making me drool by only thinking of a icecream….this was not a good idea for my figure, to say the least. But well, we only live once so, let all the icecream come to me 🙂

  10. I can’t believe they’re NOT the state fruit of Montana!! I love eating huckleberry anything whenever I go to Glacier. I don’t think I could ever get tired of huckleberry ice cream! And I love that they can’t be tamed – just like the rest of Montana, it seems!

  11. Yum! I love when a vacation place has a signature food – it makes for easy souvenir buying! When I visited Glacier National park, everyone got something huckleberry-themed – BBQ sauce, syrup, lemonade. So many possibilities!

    1. I hope you stopped in at Glacier Highlands and had a slice of their amazing huckleberry pie! (If not, put that at the top of your list for your next trip to Glacier!)

  12. Marianne Evenhuis

    I’m a huckleberry freak living in Whitefish…I love ’em! Fun to read facts about them here – thanks! Not to be a nit-picker (haha), but I’m pretty sure your photos of hucks in-the-wild for facts #2 and #7 aren’t actually huckleberries. They have a little crown on them and rarely grow in big batches like that. Maybe they’re a different type then I’m used to seeing? Who knows? Happy picking!

  13. Makes sense. I was hoping that I didn’t miss out on a special huckleberry picking spot lol. I’ve never had the chance to pick them myself but I definitely look forward to it one day!

  14. I recently stumbled across your blog, Great read! Every time I travel to Montana I bring back a jar of Huckleberry Jam for the wife, if not I’ll be in trouble when I get home! I noticed the article says its from July 11, 2018 but you updated it on August 12, 2019. What prompted you to update the article? Did I miss anything good from the original posting?

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Huckleberry jam is the best! We have a jar of huckleberry pie filling that we’re making into a German kuchen next weekend. Can’t wait! P.S. I update articles from time to time. If it’s a material update — like I’ve added a recommendation or a restaurant has closed — I’ll add a note at the top with details. Otherwise, it’s usually something small, like a new pin for Pinterest or a more recently published article that’s relevant that I want to incorporate.

  15. You got me so excited about huckleberries that I devoured the huckleberry candy I found in Colorado. Still haven’t had the real thing though. One day…

  16. Kristina Biniahan

    What a fun read. I’m from Australia and I dont think I’ve ever seen huckleberries. If I did, I wouldn’t have noticed. Gonna keep a look out. Maybe try some huckleberry pie ???

    1. Huckleberry ice cream may be one of my favorite ways to enjoy huckleberries. (Well, after a huckleberry latte to jump start my day.) And now you’ve got me wondering how Mark Twain (who grew up in the Midwest) named his character after a Western state berry (going to Google right now!)

  17. Love this post! I wish I could pick my own huckleberries and make a pie like the one on the picture. For a pie like this, I would happily mess up my manicure 😉

  18. You know, now that you mention it, I’m not sure I’ve ever had fresh huckleberries. They truly must be hard to find! But this post makes them look and sound delicious so I guess I’d better head to Montana!

      1. Melody A Lozeau

        I live in Missoula Mt and our family has a favorite place we like to calle”Secret Mountain” where we pick every year. It’s July 6 and we just went up to check on them and they are ripe and ready to pick!!! Earliest I’ve seen ever! Ran into a little red griz headed down the hill!
        By the way… my favorite way to enjoy Montana’s gold is straight up in a bowl with cream

        1. All of that sounds heavenly, from picking fresh huckleberries to seeing a grizzly (albeit I hope at a safe distance) to enjoying a bowlful of berries topped with fresh cream. There is nothing in the world quite like Montana in the summer. Love it! <3

  19. Kristin In Motion

    Ugh yummm I would like to try some of that huckleberry pie!! Fascinating post! I dont think Ive ever tried one before!

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