Red huckleberry plants are abundant in the Pacific Northwest and grow with great occurrence on the BC coast. Whether you walking down an old road or hiking in the forest, you will run into the Red Huckleberry. Old-growth tree stumps are an integral part of the Pacific Northwest’s modern landscape. In many places, these old giants act as nursery stumps to a host of other plant life. One of the most common inhabitants of these nursery stumps is the red huckleberry.
The red huckleberry plants bright green and thin crooked branches hang laden with red berries in the late spring. These delicate translucent berries have been a source of food for generations of Northwest First Peoples, animals and settlers alike. They are rich in vitamin C, available sugars and minerals like manganese.
Many First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest collected the berries and either ate them fresh or dried them to make into cakes for use later in the year. Red huckleberries are easy to collect, you can simply shake one of the branches and make sure to have a basket or open bag ready underneath. The berries will fall easily from their stem. Or you can make a berry collector comb, this is like a comb but with bigger teeth and you simply comb the berries off the bush.
As heavily used as they are, not everyone enjoys their tangy tart flavor. It is for this reason that the red huckleberries are usually combined with other berries, like the blueberry to add sweetness.
We collect them and I like to make huckleberry pies and use them to make a great sweet and sour sauce.
The dried leaves and stems, collected late in the summer to early fall, are medicinally valuable resources as well. The berries and plants alike are rich in flavonoids, which are consumed for their antioxidant benefits.
A tea of the leaf and stems can be helpful in cases of diarrhea as well as a gargle for sore throats and inflamed gums. Some people who suffer from allergies and the tendency for skin hyperactivity may find that the tea decreases their inflammatory responses.
Whatever it is that first draws you to the red huckleberry plants, I recommend spending some time sitting next to one of them on their big old nursery stumps and taking in all the beauty and bounty they have to offer.
See if you can discover who else relies on the huckleberry for sustenance, birds, bees, bears and other animals all use this plant at different times of the year.