Montana is known for vast skies, diverse wildlife, and huckleberry everything. A huckleberry is a common name for small berries that look like blueberries and domesticating them has eluded researchers for decades. For that reason, you can only harvest them in the wild.
Huckleberries can be found in the coniferous forests of western Montana. This berry’s hungry admirers include grizzly bears, red foxes, pika, birds, and humans. In mid to late summer, huckleberry pickers set off to their favorite spots in hopes of harvesting their favorite wild berry. Just like good hunting, fishing, and mushroom foraging spots, many locals keep where they find their stash a secret. Part of the experience is getting outside and exploring.
Huckleberries typically live between 3,000–7,500 feet in forested areas that have been disturbed in a way that opens the canopy to allow more sunlight to reach the underbrush. Good places to look for huckleberries are around lake basins, old burn zones, ski trails, and old logging areas.
Related to the blueberry, there are 7 different huckleberry species in Montana, but the most common is the Mountain Huckleberry. When ripe, huckleberries can be found in hues ranging from red to purple and blue. If you aren’t able to harvest huckleberries during the summer months yourself, you can find them at farm stands around Montana and in the frozen section of supermarkets. You can also order them online and shipped directly to your door. Just be prepared to pay a pretty penny for this hand-picked, premium berry.
Even though they are smaller than commercial berries, huckleberries are tart and sweet with a more concentrated flavor. You can find huckleberries in jams, sauces, chocolate, candy, ice cream, tea, honey, and more. They are also often found in goods made by artisan bakers around Montana.
Huckleberries can be used in cooking the same way you would use blueberries. We love to incorporate huckleberries in muffins and cakes, like this lemon blueberry cake. They are also delicious incorporated into salads and vinaigrettes, like this huckleberry dressing. But, one of our favorite ways to enjoy huckleberries is by making these super fluffy pancakes. They are soft, thick, delicious, and simple to make. A big stack of these topped with butter and syrup will make all your weekend morning brunch dreams come true.
Tracee Hume is a Registered Dietitian and Bozeman-based Communications Coordinator for Abundant Montana. She loves making a mess in her kitchen, but doesn’t love cleaning it up. Send her your favorite recipes at [email protected]!