I found two edible berries while walking along the Tsunami Trail at Bullards State Park near Bandon OR. Unlike the kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) of yesterday’s post, which is edible but rather bland and mealy, evergreen huckleberries (Vaccinium ovatum) are sweet and delicious. Interestingly both berries are members of the heath family.
There are many different species of huckleberries. The evergreen huckleberry is an upright shrub that grows in coniferous forests near the ocean. It is native and can be found in the three Pacific Coast states (WA, OR, CA) and British Columbia. Often this huckleberry grows on the beach, in the spray zone or close to tidewater.
The alternate, leathery evergreen huckleberry leaves are lance shaped and sharp-toothed along the margins. The upper sides of the leaves are a shiny green while the undersides are a paler green. The small fruits are deep purple/black and shiny. The ends are characteristically flattened. Ripening in early autumn, these huckleberries remain on the bush until winter. I love evergreen huckleberries, grabbing handfuls to snack on while hiking.
The berries were eaten by indigenous groups either fresh or dried and made into cakes. Today evergreen huckleberries make good jellies, jams and pies and are a treat in pancakes and muffins. Evergreen huckleberries dry and keep well.
Evergreen huckleberry leaves and berries are high in Vitamin C. Modern herbalists use a tea made from the huckleberry leaves to stabilize blood sugar in diabetics. Research shows that a huckleberry leaf extract does reduce blood sugar levels immediately after administration, so there may be some validity to this treatment. I do not know. Additionally, evergreen huckleberries are employed for urinary disorders.
I love finding evergreen huckleberries when hiking along the Pacific Coast.