Foraging Wild Fruit: Black Huckleberry

Photo of Black Huckleberry

When it comes to fresh summer fruit, I prefer pick-your-own, wild-style. You can't pick Black Huckleberries (Gaylussacia baccata) by the pound at your local farm, but the species grows wild throughout New England and offers berries free to those who know where these shrubs grow. Shaded forests can be filled with these short, leafy plants, but when growing in dense shade, they rarely fruit heavily.  To find lots of fruit, you'll need to look in sunny forest openings and dry fields.

Black Huckleberries have five calyx lobes (which form a sort of star-shaped belly button) and are usually black and shiny, though I've also found blue berries covered in a light bloom (the latter type might be confused with the related Blue Huckleberry). Whether black or blue, they can be separated from blueberries (Vaccinium sp.) by their crunchy-seeds, unique flavor, and their leaves, which are coated with orange resin dots.*

Photo of Black Huckleberry handful

Take care not to confuse Black Huckleberries with the purgative fruit of Glossy False Buckthorn (Frangula alnus) or European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), and, as always, only consume wild foods that you can positively identify as edible.

*Magnification and adequate lighting may be required to observe the orange resin.

Leave a Comment