If you are confused over the difference between a huckleberry and a blueberry, you are not alone. While the term blueberry is almost always correctly used, the term huckleberry is often incorrectly applied to blueberries. If you want to know if your huckleberry is a true huckleberry, it is important to look at a variety of things.
The confusion between huckleberries and blueberries began in the late 1600s when American colonists first identified native blueberry species as "hurtleberries," which is actually a variety of European blueberry. Slowly the word hurtleberry transformed into huckleberry.
Huckleberry is a term that refers to plants in two genera: Gaylussacia and Vaccinium. Blueberry refers only to plants in the Vaccinium genus. There are about 40 species of huckleberry while there are only about 20 species of blueberry.
Although blueberries are assumed to be more common to the eastern United States and huckleberries to the Pacific Northwest, Marie Harrison, a University of Florida Master Gardener, contradicts this concept in an article claiming that huckleberries can also be found in the East. However, one sure place you will always find blueberries is your grocery store, because huckleberries are not grown commercially.
It can be almost impossible to determine if a bush is a blueberry or a huckleberry by its appearance. Both can vary in height from 1 to 12 feet tall. Leaves vary in appearance depending on the exact species, although Gaylussacia huckleberries tend to have leaves with a sticky resin along the underside.
Given the name blueberry, one might assume that the fruit would always be blue. But blueberries can also appear black, dark purple and even red—exactly the same as huckleberries.
By most reports the taste of the two berries is very similar. However, Linda Stradley, a cookbook author and culinary historian, says that the flavor of huckleberries tends to be more tart and intense than that of blueberries.
The seeds are a surefire way of distinguishing a blueberry from a huckleberry. Huckleberries have 10 large, hard seeds. In contrast, blueberries have lots of soft tiny seeds.