Huckleberries -

The huckleberry, Blueberry, Bilberry and cranberry constitute the principal members of a large family of edible berries, botanically classed together. CRANBERRIES (which see) are easily and naturally distinguished by their red color, but the titles of Huckleberry, Blueberry and Bilberry are variously and contradictorily employed in different localities. By New England custom, those of bluish color are popularly known as Blueberries; those black or nearly so, as huckleberries. West and South of New England, the general tendency is to group all varieties under the common name of Huckleberry, in spite of the fact that the market supply is chiefly of blueberries. Botanically, blueberries and bilberries are now ascribed to the Vaccinium genus and huckleberries to Gaylussacia. Physically, blueberries and bilberries are generally sweeter, milder and larger than huckleberries, and the seeds, though more numerous, are so much smaller as to be scarcely noticeable in eating. They are also generally bluer than the Common Huckleberry (G. Resinosa), but the color distinction is not absolute because of the bluish tint of the blue Huckleberry or Dangleberry (G. Frondosa) and the nearly black hue of a few kinds of Blueberries. The name "Whortleberry" is in the United States applied to the Huckleberry, and in Europe to the Bilberry.

The numerous varieties of huckleberries, blueberries and bilberries range in size from that of a currant to a small grape, and in color from light blue to black, and ripen from the first of June to the last of August, remaining in the market until about the middle of September. They are picked in enormous quantities for use fresh as an edible fruit and (both fresh and canned) for pies and puddings. In Southeast Maine, vast areas are covered with the bushes. Cultivation is at present resorted to in only a few parts, as the wild bushes generally supply enough to meet the demand, but it is probable that the future will see greater attention directed to the improvement of these berries and their more extensive production. As marketed, two or more varieties are often mixed together.

The first to ripen is the Dwarf Blueberry, borne by a small shrub from six to fifteen inches in height, which grows and bears abundantly on the sand barrens and hills of Pennsylvania. The fruit is also known as Sugar Berry, Sugar Huckleberry, blue Huckleberry, Early Sweet, blue Sweet, Low Sweet, Early blue and Early Huckleberry. It has a bluish coat, which looks as though dusted with flour.

Next come the Low Blueberry, also known as the "blue Huckleberry," the Canada Blueberry and the Dwarf Bilberry.

The Low Blueberry grows on dry sandy ground West of the Alleghanies. The bush resembles that of the Dwarf Blueberry except that the plant is more erect. The fruit is large, blue and covered with bloom.

The Canada Blueberry, found in the Pennsylvania mountains and regions further north, is a shrub from one to two feet in height, bearing round or oblate blue berries, covered with bloom and pleasing in flavor, but not as sweet as the fruit of the Dwarf Blueberry. The bush is also known locally as the "velvet leaf."

The Dwarf Bilberry, found in northern Maine and Canada, is a small shrub from two to twelve inches in height, with large blue berries covered with bloom.

The latest in the market are the fruits of the High Bush Blueberry of the northeast states and the High Bush Huckleberry, both of them widely known as "Swamp Huckleberry," from their preference for moist woodlands and swampy ground. The bushes are tall - from four to twelve feet in height - and ragged or straggling in growth. The fruit of the High Bush Blueberry is a dark purplish; that of the High Bush Huckleberry is nearly black.

The crop is gathered mainly with steel rakes, similar to those frequently used in cranberry picking, a skillful "hand" sometimes collecting more than fifteen bushels in a day. Both men and women are employed for the work. The berries are afterwards winnowed in a machine which blows out the sticks, leaves and defective fruits.

The poorer grades are in some sections popularly called "crackers," because their tough skins crack when eaten. The term is also applied to the true huckleberry, because the bony covering of the seed "crackles" between the teeth.

Arround Huckleberries in The Grocer's Encyclopedia

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