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The Seed Program
Growing Hints

This is one of the many growing hints that are available as a bonus with a registered copy of The Seed Program.

Garden Huckleberry

Garden Huckleberry is an odd crop that is not found in very many seed catalogs, but it is commercially available from a few sources. Gurneys is one of the few companies that still sell it. The plant produces an abundant crop of small (about half inch) dark purple fruit. The fruit do not taste like much when picked, as they are not at all sweet. A pleasing berry taste does come through surprising well when it is cooked with plenty of sugar. It can be used as a viable substitute for blueberries in pies. It is very easy to grow, and that is perhaps the main thing that it has going for it.

Garden Huckleberry is an annual and can be treated just like a pepper plant, as far as planting and care. For the best harvest, start it indoors in late winter, just like peppers. When nighttime frost no longer threatens, harden it off and transplant it into the vegetable garden. The plant responds very well to mulching, and with mulch suppressing the weeds it requires very little care. Basically, it can be ignored until frost is expected.

The garden huckleberry is bothered by few insects or diseases. Colorado potato beetles will sometimes nibble a leaf or a developing fruit, but these insects will prefer to feast on potatoes or eggplant if there are any available nearby. Watch out for pests when the plant is just getting established, about the first three weeks after transplanting, and don't worry about bugs after that. To prevent any diseases that might appear, avoid planting garden huckleberry where other solanaceae plants have grown during the past few years. These related plants include peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes.

It can be harvested any time in the fall before the first frost arrives. By this time, the branches will be thickly covered with the purple berries that are so deeply colored that they look black. The easiest way to deal with the harvest is to cut up the branches into conveniently sized pieces, bring them to some comfortable seat (indoors or out) and pull the berries off the stems in a relaxed manner. Like shelling peas, this is a good thing to do while listening to music or watching television. If you do tackle this job indoors, beware of stray berries for they can cause dark purple stains in clothing or upholstery. Discard any fruit that is green or incompletely ripened. Green fruit are mildly poisonous, just like potato leaves or green potatoes. Since the fruit is not eaten fresh anyway, it is best to freeze it right away, but the will keep at room temperature for a few days without spoiling. Fruit that has frozen and thawed is actually easier to mash up for cooking. Try garden huckleberries as a substitute for other berries in your favorite recipes. Just add some extra sugar to make up for the lack of natural sugar in the fruit. If you taste the somewhat bitter fruit unsweetened, you will probably be amazed by how good it does taste once sugar has been added.

For more crops, more complete gardening information, a garden journal and a planting schedule you can customize for your region, purchase The Seed Program!

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