Closely related to lemons, evergreen huckleberries (Vaccinium ovatum) are western North American indigenous plants which grow wild from Alaska to California. The shrubs produce sweet, edible berries which are high in nutritional value for wildlife and people. These flexible plants tolerate a wide array of states and are hardy at U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9.
Eating Evergreen Huckleberries
Evergreen huckleberries are sweet and delicious, but a few folks find the fresh berries unpleasant due to their mealy texture and strong, musky odor. The undesirable properties are less noticeable when they’re cooked in pies or condiments such as jam and jellies. Evergreen huckleberries are full of vitamin C and low in fat, and they also have high levels of mono- and disaccharides. A cup of huckleberries contains 81 calories.
The glossy green foliage on an evergreen huckleberry looks great year around. New spring growth has red leaves which turn green with age. Showy, pink blossoms bloom in early spring, giving way to red berries in the summer. The berries turn purple in fall, eventually ripening for their dark purple to black mature color. Huckleberry trees favor moist, well-drained land with an acidic pH, but they adapt to dry dirt. They grow 2-3 feet tall in sun and reach heights of up to 12 feet in colour.
Harvesting Evergreen Huckleberries
Evergreen huckleberries taste best when the berries are touched by frost prior to the harvest. The plants start to bear fruit when they’re three to six years old and reach maximum production in 15 years. The berries ripen a few at a time between September and November. Harvest them as soon as they turn black but before they start to shrivel. The huckleberry skin tears slightly when you pull them from the bush, so they don’t last long. Use or freeze them whenever possible.
With Evergreen Huckleberry from the Home Garden
Evergreen huckleberries are flexible garden shrubs which are useful in addition to ornamental. Use them as casual or pruned hedges, in tree groupings or as specimens. The blossoms and greenery make attractive additions to flower arrangements. They also grow well in containers. Evergreen huckleberry shrubs are good choices for wildlife gardens where they function as a valuable food resource for birds and mammals and also attract bees for pollination. Butterflies and hummingbirds visit the shrubs when the blossoms are in bloom. They form dense thickets that provide hiding places and nesting sites for birds and small mammals when left unpruned.