Two little blue berries that are nutritious and delicious. But how are they different? And which is better? Blueberry vs huckleberry – let’s break it all down!
Origin and History
Blueberry: Blueberries are small, round, sweet, and highly nutritious berries that belong to the Vaccinium genus. They are native to North America and have a rich history intertwined with indigenous cultures. Blueberries may have been the first fruits eaten by early people following the last ice age. Native Americans have certainly been consuming blueberries for centuries as both a food source and in medicinal practices.The development of cultivated blueberries began in the early 1900s through the collaboration of Elizabeth White and USDA botanist Frederick Coville. Living on a cranberry farm in New Jersey, White started conducting her own research into wild highbush blueberry plants in the 1890s and this started us down the road toward the great blueberries we know today.
Huckleberry: Everyone has heard of Huckleberry Finn, but most still have to ask what is a huckleberry? Huckleberries are small, round, and often dark purple to black berries that also belong to the Vaccinium genus. Different species of huckleberries can be found in various regions, but mostly the mountainous areas of the NW United States and Canada. They have been an important food source for Native American tribes for centuries.
Huckleberries thrive in the northern Rocky Mountains – specifically in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho, and Trout Creek MT has an annual huckleberry festival. The town of Jay Montana, however, is called the Huckleberry Capital of the World, where the fruit is celebrated during a multi-day festival every year.
Huckleberries are not easy to find outside of the Pacific NW. They thrive in northern climates at altitudes over 2,000 feet, and are difficult, at best, to cultivate. This leads to them being hard to find and expensive because you have to buy them from people willing to go pick them.
The name ‘huckleberry’ comes from the older English name hurtleberry or whortleberry. In North America, these names were used for numerous plants with small red, blue, or black berries. The name huckleberry seems to have just evolved and become cemented by Mark Twain’s fictional character Huckleberry Finn.
Blueberry: Blueberries are characterized by their deep blue to purple-black color and small, spherical shape. They typically measure between 5 to 16 millimeters in diameter. The skin of blueberries is smooth and often covered with a delicate, whitish bloom, which is a natural protective coating. The size and appearance can vary slightly depending on the specific variety.
Huckleberry: What do huckleberries look like? Most of us have never eaten them. Huckleberries are typically smaller than blueberries ranging from 5 to 10 millimeters in diameter. They are usually round or slightly oval in shape, and can vary in color from dark purple to almost black. The berries often have a slightly waxy surface, which contributes to their shine. While they may resemble blueberries, huckleberries are generally smaller and have a distinct flavor and texture.
Flavor and Texture
Blueberry: They are known for their sweet and slightly tangy flavor, with a hint of earthiness. They offer a delightful balance between sweetness and acidity, making them enjoyable both raw and cooked. The texture of blueberries is soft and juicy, and they have a pleasing “pop” when bitten into. The skin is thin and not overly tough, contributing to a pleasant eating experience.
Huckleberry: Huckleberries are known for their unique and intense flavor. Huckleberry taste is best described as fairly sweet with a bit of tartness that is often described as a blend of blueberries and raspberries. The flavor can vary depending on the species and the growing conditions, but it’s generally a delightful balance of sweetness and tanginess. In terms of texture, huckleberries are delicate and can be slightly juicy, with a thin skin that bursts upon biting.
Blueberries: These are incredibly versatile berries, and can be used in a wide range of culinary creations. They are commonly eaten fresh, added to breakfast cereal, yogurt, and oatmeal, or incorporated into baked goods such as muffins, pancakes, and pies. Blueberries can also be used to make jams, preserves, sauces, and smoothies. Their vibrant color and distinct flavor make them a popular ingredient in both sweet and savory cooking like blueberry stuffed chicken or Blueberry Grilled Cheese. You just have to trust us on that grilled cheese sandwich. Blueberries pair really well with several varieties of cheese.
Huckleberries: Like blueberries, these are versatile berries that can be used in a variety of culinary creations. They are commonly used in baking, making jams, jellies, sauces, and syrups, and can be incorporated into pancakes, muffins, pies, and desserts. Due to their rich flavor, they are also used in savory dishes, such as glazes for meats or in salads. Additionally, huckleberries are often enjoyed fresh as a snack or added to cereals and yogurt. You can easily substitute them for blueberries in most cuisines. They would make great popsicles or perhaps a ricotta galette. You can easily make a huckleberry crisp using any recipe for blueberry crisps. Similarly you can make great huckleberry cookies using them in lieu of cranberries in these baked Alaska cookies.
How to Store
Blueberries: To store fresh blueberries in the refrigerator, it’s best to keep them dry and unwashed until you’re ready to use them. Fresh blueberries can typically be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
If you want to store blueberries for a longer period, freezing is a great option. To freeze blueberries, start by washing and thoroughly drying them. Then, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer until they’re firm. Once they’re frozen individually, transfer the berries to an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. This method prevents the berries from sticking together and allows you to remove the desired amount without thawing the entire batch. Frozen blueberries can be stored in the freezer for up to 6-12 months. Frozen blueberries can be used directly in recipes without thawing, which helps preserve their texture and flavor.
Huckleberries: Store huckleberries in a sealed container in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. They should last 1-2 weeks. If you want to keep them longer, freeze them following the same procedure we outlined for blueberries.
Blueberries: There appear to be about 150 different varieties of blueberries. We won’t try to go into all of them, but here is a bit about four of our favorites and a list of honorable mentions.
Biloxi Blueberries are grown in warm regions, and are noted for their plumpness, sweet taste, and juiciness. They are usually hand-picked as they are more delicate than other varieties, but this makes them a popular southern variety open for DIY blueberry picking.
Chandier Blueberry is a recently developed cultivar, only made available for commercial sales in 1995. The berries are large, and do not hold up well to machine picking. This tends to limit their sales to local markets and causes the price to be higher than other blueberries. This variety is another favorite for DIY blueberry picking.
Patriot Blueberry is a third type of blueberry worth mentioning. Only developed in 1976, the plant grows huge berries reaching the size of a quarter dollar. This blueberry variety was developed specifically to be disease-resistant, withstand cold, be self-pollinating, and produce larger crops. This is typical of many fruits. Horticulturists, often funded by national governments, work to develop fruits that taste better, grow in a wider variety of conditions, or produce larger yields.
Alaskan Blueberries are delicious berries grown in one of the few places in America where you can still find large tracts of wild blueberries that locals can go to pick. One ice cream shop in Fairbanks still pays customers to bring in quarts of wild berries to make their famous blueberry ice cream. I grew up in Alaska, so I had to give a nod to this wonderful fruit.
Huckleberries: There aren’t nearly as many different varieties of huckleberries as there are blueberries. As they resist transplantation, cultivation, and attempts at hybridization, this is understandable. Here are a few of the better known huckleberry varieties:
- Big Huckleberry
- Black huckleberry
- Box huckleberry
- Dwarf huckleberry
- Evergreen huckleberry
- Mountain Huckleberry
- Red huckleberry
Substitutes for Blueberries
When choosing a blueberry substitute, consider the flavor, texture, and color you’re aiming for in your recipe. Remember that while these substitutes can work well in various recipes (or at least work in a pinch), they may not perfectly replicate the taste and texture of blueberries, so it’s a good idea to experiment and adjust your recipes as needed.
Huckleberries: They are harder to find and more expensive than blueberries, but huckleberries are an easy substitute into a recipe that calls for blueberries.
Blackberries: Blackberries are quite similar to blueberries in terms of taste, texture, and appearance. They are slightly larger and have a slightly different flavor profile, but they can be used interchangeably in many recipes. Like blueberries, blackberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
Raspberries: These are another excellent option. They have a slightly tangy flavor and can bring a burst of color and taste to your dishes, just like blueberries do. Raspberries are also high in antioxidants and fiber.
Strawberries: While strawberries have a different flavor and texture than blueberries, they can still be a great substitute in many recipes. They are sweet, juicy, and can add a vibrant red color to your dishes. Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C and other nutrients.
Cherries: Sweet cherries can work as a substitute if you’re looking for a fruit with a different flavor profile. They are juicy, flavorful, and can add a burst of sweetness to your dishes. Cherries are also rich in antioxidants.
Currants: Currants come in red, black, and white varieties. They have a slightly tart and tangy flavor and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
Mulberries: Mulberries have a unique, mildly sweet flavor. They can be used in a variety of dishes and are particularly popular in dried form. Mulberries are a good source of vitamins and minerals.
Cranberries: This one is a bit of a stretch substitute. Cranberries have a tart and slightly sour flavor, which can add a unique twist to recipes that call for blueberries. They are often used in baked goods and sauces. Cranberries are known for their potential health benefits, including urinary tract health.
Substitutes for Huckleberries
If you find a recipe you like that calls for huckleberries, and don’t have access to them, you may have to pick one of these huckleberry substitutes. Keep in mind that the level of sweetness and tartness can vary among these alternatives, so you may need to adjust the amount of sweeteners used in your recipe. Additionally, the color and appearance of the substitute berries may differ from huckleberries, but they can still yield delicious results in your culinary creations. If none of these substitutes are what you are looking for, check out our 40 Types of Berries.
Blueberries: Blueberries are probably the closest berry to the huckleberry flavor, and share a similar size, shape, and flavor profile. While blueberries are slightly sweeter than huckleberries, they still provide a pleasant sweet-tart taste that works well in various recipes. They can be used in the same ways as huckleberries in dishes like pies, muffins, and jams.
Blackberries: Blackberries are another suitable substitute. They are slightly larger than huckleberries and have a more pronounced tartness, but they still offer a rich berry flavor that can complement both sweet and savory dishes. Blackberries can be used in baking, cooking, and making preserves.
Raspberries: While raspberries are smaller and more delicate than huckleberries, they offer a similar level of tartness and a bright, fruity taste. Their vibrant color and distinctive flavor make them a great alternative in recipes that call for huckleberries. Like other berries, raspberries can be used in various culinary applications.
Currants: coming in red, black, and white varieties, currants have a unique sweet-tart flavor that can be reminiscent of huckleberries. While currants are often smaller and more sour than huckleberries, they can work well in jams, sauces, and desserts, providing a tangy burst of flavor.
Cranberries: Cranberries are quite tart and may require some additional sweetening in recipes that call for huckleberries. Their flavor, however, can be balanced with sugar or other sweeteners to create a similar taste profile. Cranberries are commonly used in sauces, relishes, and baked goods.
Wild Berries: Depending on your location, you might have access to other wild berries that could serve as substitutes for huckleberries. These might include lingonberries, bilberries, or other local wild berry varieties. Keep in mind that these options might vary in taste and availability based on your geographical location.
Blueberry Vs Huckleberry Nutrition
Blueberries and Huckleberries are both very healthy fruits loaded with micronutrients and antioxidants.
Blueberry Nutrition Info: 100g (3.5 ounces) of blueberries provide:
- 57 Calories
- 16% of RDA of Vitamin C
- 24% of RDA of Vitamin K
- 3% RDA of Folate
- 1% RDA of Iron
- 1% RDA of Calcium
- 3% of RDA of Potassium
- 14.5 Grams of Carbs
- 0.7 Grams of Protein
- 2.4 Grams of Fiber
Blueberries are also particularly rich in anthocyanins, which are a type of flavonoid responsible for their vibrant blue color. Anthocyanins have well known antioxidant properties associated with various health benefits.
Huckleberry Nutrition Info: 100g (3.5 ounces) of huckleberries provide:
- 57 Calories
- 11% of RDA of Vitamin C
- 20% of RDA of Vitamin K
- 3% of RDA of Folate
- 2% of RDA of Iron
- 1% of RDA of Calcium
- 2% of RDA of Potassium
- 14 Grams of Carbohydrates
- 0.7 Grams of Protein
- 2.4 Grams of Fiber
Like blueberries, huckleberries are rich in the antioxidants known as anthocyanins. These compounds are also the natural pigments responsible for their dark color.
The difference between huckleberry and blueberry is really pretty small. Blueberries are just so much easier to find. We hope you found something here of interest or use in our look at huckleberries vs blueberries, and as always happy cooking!