Huckleberries: A True Wild Gift From Nature

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Huckleberries: A True Wild Gift From Nature

Nature provides us with so many nourishing gifts and each one of them brings a little something unique to the table. In today’s world, we have a habit of looking for exciting and exotic foods with the belief, they are better. Sometimes for real nourishment, all you need to do, is look in your backyard. The huckleberry is one of these specials gifts and in my opinion, is an underrated lost treasure.

In the Wild:
No matter what berry you are looking to consume for nourishment and medicinal purposes, you will never find anything more nutritious than a food grown in the wild. What you find in the wild are often smaller and may not be as attractive. I assure you if the goal is to find the real and original food, the wild is the place to go. So much of what you see in the grocery store is not necessarily the original foods from nature. They are often the hybrid versions that may have a more appealing look and pleasant taste.

Nature’s Greatest Secret
You can mark my words, 100 years from now we’ll still never know or understand the complexity of phytochemistry in whole foods. I learned a very valuable lesson a long time ago. When you live in a reductionist thinking world, the system is not set up to understand the whole. What I believe we will continue to learn about, is the mechanisms of action for individual compounds. This is not the way to look at a nourishing wild food. Perhaps looking from a more simple point of view and realizing, we are not supposed to understand the individual parts of this complex puzzle but, embrace and trust what mother nature has provided us with.

The power of Anthocyanins & Polyphenolic compounds
The one fact science has concluded is that every colorful berry has a highly nourishing amount of polyphenolic compounds which play a powerful role in their mechanisms of action. Their ability to support healthy tissue and blood vessel function provides the potential for a cascade of powerful healing effects. According to a paper published in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 2002, polyphenols are the most abundant of the 3 classes of antioxidants in the human diet. Known as “reducing agents” and with the help of other dietary agents referred to as antioxidants they “Protect the body’s tissues against stress and associated pathologies”. (1) Foods that contain these powerful compounds have been extensively studied for supporting cardiovascular and neurological health through their ability to support a healthy inflammation response. (2)

In a research review titled “Berries: Emerging impact on cardiovascular health” it was stated “The principal mechanisms of action underlying the potential cardio-protective effects of berries include counteracting free radical generation, attenuating inflammatory gene expression, downregulating foam cell formation, and upregulating eNOS expression; through these effects, progression of atherosclerosis is slowed and normal vascular function and blood pressure are preserved.” (3)

Mistaken Identity:
A common mistake that many people make it believing that blueberries and huckleberries are the same. Truth be told, while they have some similarities, they are very different berries. Blueberries are a much more common staple in the marketplace due to the greater ease of growing them. According to an article titled “Huckleberries Vs. Blueberries: Similar Yet So Different” the following was explained about the differences.

 

Characteristics of fruit, seed, and taste
Huckleberry- Plant presents dull red flowers, slightly smaller than the blueberry and can commonly be found in shades of black, blue and red. Each berry contains around 10 hard pebbles like seeds. Because they are smaller in size and only grown in the wild huckleberries are sweeter, tartier and more concentrated in flavor than the blueberry.

Blueberries- Blossom white, light green or pink flowers. The riper blueberries get, the darker they get (almost a black color). Each berry is full of soft seeds and because they are more easily cultivated and get a great water supply, they have a more bland or neutral taste.

While they are very different berries, when making food products like jellies, jams, and muffins, they can be used interchangeably.

Fun Facts about the HuckleBerry:
• Huckleberries can be found throughout the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest
• Growing season for the Huckleberry is from June through August
• Huckleberries are the main food source for deer, birds, black and grizzly bears
• There has been a huckleberry festival for the last 30 years in a small town called Tout Creek known as the Huckleberry capital of Montana

By
Mike Stuchiner
Master Herbalist

References

1)Tapiero H1, Tew KD, Ba GN, Mathé G. “Polyphenols: do they play a role in the prevention of human pathologies?”. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy. 2002. Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/3/18

2)Blando F, Gerardi C, Nicoletti I. Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) “anthocyanins as ingredients for functional foods”. J Biomed Biotechnol. Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/3/18

3)Arpita Basu, Michael Rhone, and Timothy J Lyons. “Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health”. 2011 Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/23/18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068482/

4)https://nutrineat.com/huckleberries-vs-blueberries