Garden Huckleberries, an Unusual, Easy to Grow Fruit (plus a pie filling recipe)

Garden Huckleberries, an Unusual, Easy to Grow Fruit (plus a pie filling recipe)
Garden Huckleberries, an Unusual, Easy to Grow Fruit (plus a pie filling recipe)
 The problem with growing your own fruit is that you often have to wait years after planting the trees and bushes to get a decent-sized harvest.  Enter the garden huckleberry.  Garden huckleberries are unique because they are annual plants. The berries are firm, shiny, black, and grow in clusters on bushes approximately the size of a tomato plant.  (For my “way up north” readers in Alaska and Canada, think of big crowberries.)  This isn’t the sweet wild berry popular in the Pacific Northwest that resembles a blueberry, but a completely different berry.
Growing them couldn’t be any easier. It’s not even necessary to start the seeds indoors, just plant the seeds right into the ground. It will begin producing mid-summer and yield an abundance of berries until frost.
You may have read (as I did) that this berry is a great substitute for blueberries and can be used the same way.  Not even close.  Make sure that the recipes are meant specifically for garden huckleberries.  Tossing a handful of these into a batch of pancakes would result in mutiny at the breakfast table and you’d find yourself leading the charge.
It is absolutely essential that they be cooked–boiled, actually–and they need some added acidity, like lemon juice.  When properly prepared, however, you may use huckleberry sauce as an ice cream topping, a layer of filling in a coffee cake, as well as the filling in a beautifully dark purple pie.  Some say that a second round of cooking (baked into a coffee cake or pie, for example) makes the taste milder. It has a unique “wild” taste that may not be liked by everyone.  We have mixed reviews on them around here. But if you’re adventurous, want to try something different, and have a little space in your garden, you should give them a try. You’ll get a lot for your bang.
Here’s the recipe that I use.

Garden Huckleberry Pie Filling

Servings: 4 pints


  • 7 c. garden huckleberries
  • 4 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. Clear Jel
  • 1 t. grated lemon zest
  • 4 T. lemon juice


  • In a large saucepan, cover huckleberries with water and boil under tender. Drain water, and mash berries using a potato masher.
  • In another large saucepan, combine sugar and Clear Jel. Whisk in 2 c. water. Bring to a boil and stir until mixture thickens and starts to bubble. Stir in zest, if using, and lemon juice and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Fold in the berries.
  • Ladle into hot jars, leaving a 1″ headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 30 minutes. Yields approximately 4 pints.
Want to order some garden huckleberries for this summer’s garden?  Seed Savers carries the seeds that I use. (I’m not promoting, just sharing info!) You can find them here.


  1. I grow my own huckleberries and have been successful with jam, but my pie filling makes for a soupy soupy pie. I have this problem with blueberry pies too. I am following the recipe, but clearly missing something. Advice?

    1. I wonder if the issue has to do with the Clear Jel. I’ve recently learned that there is an instant kind of Clear Jel that is not meant for canning. You need to use the non-instant or regular Clear Jel. It has always given me the firm pie filling texture we all want.

      (Incidentally, it’s not the problem if you’re following the recipe, but for anyone curious, flour, tapioca, cornstarch, and potato starch will not hold up and remain thick through the canning process. You’d use those products to thicken up your canned fruit when you go to make the pie.)

      1. Thanks Amelia. I do have the right kind of Clear Jel. I’m experimenting right now and using a cup vrs. 2/3c. I’ll see if that does the trick. I have tons of huckleberries, so I can try again with the original recipe if this doesn’t work. I’ll report back.

      2. I’ve often made garden huckleberry pie and always use tapioca which also works well for pie made from the sour cherries from my backyard tree. I usually freeze extra huckleberries.

  2. Hello!
    I was wondering how many pints would be needed per pie? Also, could this be safely canned in quarts, like apple pie filling? Thank you for your time!

    1. I would use 2 pints per pie. Yes, I often canned it in quarts to save jars. ๐Ÿ™‚ I added 10 minutes to the processing time to be safe. You’re most welcome!

  3. How do you know when the huckleberries are ripe? Mine turned blue but they are not juicy or sweet. When should I harvest them?

    1. I’ve never tried anything other than clear jel. But if I were going to experiment, I’d start with another pie filling recipe that uses tapioca then tweak the sweetener and acidity for garden huckleberries. All the best!

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