Garden Huckleberries - Annual Berries You Can Count On

Did you know there's an annual berry that you can grow just like you grow a tomato? They're called garden huckleberries.

Garden huckleberries are in fact related to tomatoes, as well as peppers and potatoes. They're a member of the nightshade family and their Latin name is Solanum melanocerasum, syn S. nigrum guineense.


They produce deep purple or black berries beginning in early fall. But wait until the berries have been kissed by frost before you pick them, they'll be much more flavorful. The fruits are bitter and must be sweetened and cooked before eating.

Garden Huckleberries - Annual Berries You Can Count On

Start huckleberry seeds indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before your last spring frost. Grow the seedlings just like tomatoes or peppers. Keep them well watered and feed them weekly with a liquid fertilizer applied at half of the manufacturer's recommended strength.

Move them outdoors and harden them off beginning about two weeks before your average last frost. Put them in the shade during the day. Gradually move them into the sun and leave them outdoors for a few more hours each day until they're outside all the time. Bring them indoors if frost is predicted.

Plant them in full sun in the vegetable garden after all danger of frost has past, about the same time you plant your tomatoes. Add a trowel of compost to the soil around each plant when you transplant your seedlings.

They're thirsty like tomatoes too, so keep them well watered. Remove weeds, or better yet, mulch to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Small white flowers appear in July. Remember to feed with a liquid fertilizer weekly, especially after the flowers open.

In early fall the garden huckleberries will begin turning black. They will be ready to harvest about two weeks later, when their skin changes from shiny to dull. They'll be rather soft and their insides will turn from green to purple. Try to resist picking them until after they have been exposed to at least one light frost. Afterward, pick the ripe ones and leave the unripe ones on the plant. They too will soon ripen, so don't give up on them.

When I used to think of growing berries in my garden, I thought of perennial berries like strawberries, raspberries or blueberries. But it can take a couple of years for these plants to produce fruit.

Now I think of garden huckleberries. The produce fruit the first year and each plant produces just enough berries for one pie.

Pretty convenient, don't you think?

Copyright Sharon Sweeny, 2009. All rights reserved.

Garden Huckleberries - Annual Berries You Can Count On

Sharon Sweeny is a creative copywriter, specializing in gardening and self-sufficient do-it-yourself lifestyles. She divides her free time among her garden in Minneapolis, alternately juggling half a dozen creative projects and blogging on gardening at while pondering the exact location of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota.

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