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The missing Huckleberries
I just came back from Wholefoods market at Columbus Circle and the entire berry section in the fruit department was filled up with blueberry baskets galore. Everywhere blueberries.
Finally at the register there were uncountable blueberries again, as though it’s super Blueberry Friday, the sale ye don’t wanna miss, or such.
And just then, standing in front of so many blueberry baskets everywhere, it suddenly dawned on me; What ever happened to “huckleberries” ?
Remember blue huckleberries (also called billberries) ? Hundreds of baskets with blueberries at Wholefoods but not one basket with huckleberries. In fact, i haven’t seen huckleberries sold in markets in decades, come to think of it ?
Huckleberries used to be the all American berry, found in billberry pie ( red and blue huckleberries) made for 4th of July, or served with sour creme in the summer, even used for Game dishes, like Deer. Huckelberries, the all American blue berry, Vaccinium myrtillus.
The blueberry now sold in American supermarkets looks somewhat similar, but it doesn’t have blue fruit-flesh like the huckleberry which used to leave the tongue blue.
The blueberry variety we find in markets is the Vaccinium corymbosum, which have reddish light fruit flesh, but doesn’t stain the teeth or tongue.
It must sound aluring to men, though ? Vaccinium CoryBOSUM
What’s funny is that the berries originally called “Blue berries” referred to the poisonous variety recommended not to be eaten “raw”, called Vaccinium uliginosum. They are, however, often used for jam or pie.
Though they’re considered poisonous, they’re not deadly when consumed uncooked, but one is said to experience slight confusion and a little high, like drunkenness, after eating too many of them.
They were coined ” Blue” berries, not because of the color rather because blue meant “drunk”, from the German term Blau (blue), which is an idiom for being drunk. In Germany, however, they’re called Rauschbeere – “Rausch” means high, as in “high” from drugs or alcohol.
It was easy for berry gatherers to hold the two apart – the huckleberry is smaller, is of a darker blue and has reddish/blue fruit flesh and stains easily, whereas the Vaccinium Uliginosum is bigger, of a lighter blue and its fruit flesh is white (colorless).
Oddly enough, i just checked wikipedia and the latter berry (Vaccinium Uliginosum) is said to be edible when ripe in the summer
With no mention of being considered poisonous, as opposed to horticulture books and sites, which state they are categorized as poisonous. (?).
That much on my blueberry thoughts after seeing oh so many blueberries at Wholefoods, but not a single huckleberry.
Time to rename a great American Novel ? The Adventures of Blueberry Finn. Nah, i don’t think so, 😉
PS: Whatever happen to the Boysenberry ?