Eeeks!!! Garden Huckleberry

Discussion in 'Fruit and Vegetable Gardening' started by Cindi, Oct 28, 2006.

  1. Cindi

    Cindi Active Member

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    I ordered some seed this year from Stokes, the plant looked and sounded interesting. The plant, Garden Huckleberry, AKA, ground cherry. Evidently this plant's fruit (that are presently black as can be, purple on the insdie) are very wonderful when cooked. They are very similar to blueberries, only they don't stain the teeth. I have a recipe that came on the seed package and am anxious to make something with it. The plant is beautiful and grows rampant, quite sprawling, the bees love the white flowers that appear before the fruit. I looked this up on the internet and it is a member of the Nightshade family, which I understand can have poisonous fruit. Apparently the fruit of this garden huckleberry are no longer poisonous when mature, and apparently they are better after a hard frost, which we have not had yet, so I am reluctant to pick some to eat.

    Has anyone had any experience with this wonderous plant. Advice on how to cook would be more than appreciated. I have attached a picture with my husband standing beside this beauty, showing how tall it is. There are 4 plants planted in a clump. Cindi.
     

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  2. Cindi

    Cindi Active Member

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    Re Garden Huckleberry

    Oops, I was mistaken with what I called this Garden Huckleberry. I have heard it called Ground Cherry (but that is what I think the Cape Gooseberry is called too, which is,a member of the tomatillo family). This Garden Huckleberry's formal name is Solanum Melanocerasum (also known by the name of Wonderberry or Sunberry). Comments please. I am also growing the Cape Gooseberry, after tasting it in a restaurant in Vancouver last year, it was very yummy. I do not like the taste of the Tomatillo, which is its "cousin"?
     
  3. Anne Taylor

    Anne Taylor Active Member 10 Years

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    It sounds very interesting, and while I'm sure the connection to nightshade is a bit unnerving, if we trace back many of our plants, i.e.potatoes, we'd find things that would make us wonder about toxicity.... I'm sure if there was a concern, the Stokes company would have given ample warning and not a receipe! Do you have the botannical name for this huckleberry? Common names are so....'garden variety' ... they can be misleading :o)
    Anne
     
  4. Robert Flogaus-Faust

    Robert Flogaus-Faust Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Cindi,

    proper plant id would be a great idea before going too much into details like recipes. I fear that Anne is right. I checked the web for "garden huckelberry" and "ground cherry" and I found two species from the nightshade family, i. e. Solanum pruinosa (see http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/ground_cherry.htm, images on http://westernpawildflowers.com/html/Species.asp?SPID=652) and Solanum melanocerasum, see e. g. http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h201huckleberry.html. Your plant might be Solanum melanocerasum.
     
  5. Cindi

    Cindi Active Member

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    Indeed, this garden huckleberry's botanical name is solanum melancerasum. I sent second thread to the forum last night indicating that this garden huckleberry was known as that, maybe it hadn't shown up by the time the first thread was read. Sorry. I am going to pick the berries today, as they are turning rather dull black looking and I understand that is when they are ripe. I have actually picked a couple already and they are the most beautiful shade of purple on the inside, and watch out!!! They do indeed stain the fingers, wonder if they could be used for a dye for things, interesting, anyways, I am going to look up more on this amazing plant on the internet. Thanks for the links to websites, how is the weather in Germany right now? Cindi
     
  6. Robert Flogaus-Faust

    Robert Flogaus-Faust Active Member 10 Years

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    Weather is windy but warm and sunny in my place.
     
  7. abgardeneer

    abgardeneer Active Member

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    I grew these (Solanum melanocerasum) once myself, and while I agree that the plant is interesting, my opinion was that the edibility of the "fruit" is marginal at best, and almost entirely a function of the large amount of sugar that one uses in cooking it!
    According to my mom, her mother grew these plants on their Saskatchewan farm as a fruit source for pies (way back in the old days of self-sufficiency, before many varieties of hardy fruits were available)... and her opinion of their desirability/edibility is about the same as mine.
    Anyway, not meaning to influence you unduly, but it will be interesting to hear about your results with it, when you harvest and use the fruit.
     
  8. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Re: Re Garden Huckleberry

    I think I can clarify some of the confusion around garden huckleberry, sunberry, Luther Burbank's wonderberry, groundcherry, Cape gooseberry, etc. I just finished a book on the Solanaceae, The Fascinating World of Nightshades by Charles B. Heiser, Jr. (1987, orig. pub. 1969.) He writes a very thorough account of the introduction of Luther Burbank's sunberry (renamed wonderberry by the marketer) and the previously introduced garden huckleberry. There was quite a controversy in the early twentieth century because The Rural New Yorker did not think the plant was all that it was proclaimed to be and thought that the marketers were selling the public nothing more than toxic black nightshade. The garden huckleberry is Solanum melanocerseracium. It produces abundant shiny black berries that have little flavour, but can be made into nice jams and pies. Many plants in the nightshade family contain toxins, but several also produce edible food. Ripe fruits of the garden huckleberry or the wonderberry contain very little or no toxins and the toxins contained in these plants are destroyed by heat, so cooking would remove them. Luther Burbank claimed to have bred a superior fruiting Solanum. He may have done this or he may have inadvertently selected a naturally occurring species from African seeds that had accidently made their way into his experiments. (He was not a careful scientist.) This plant is very similar to the garden huckleberry, but with dull fruit that have a waxy bluish blush and purportedly vastly superior flavour. This plant has been named Solanum burbankii by some, but there still seems to be controversy around the true nature and origin of the plant.

    I grew the garden huckleberry this year. One plant yielded enough fruit to make a good batch of jam, which I am soon to do. I sampled the berries--dull, little flavour, but a rich colour. I cooked some with lemon and sugar and an amazing transformation occurred, the result was quite tasty. I will let you know how the jam turns out.

    I grew up with groundcherries, Physalis pruinosa and/or P. peruviana. These are also fruiting members of the nightshade family. The tomatillo, P. ixocarpa has green or purple fruit and is used as a vegetable, generally for making sauces. An interesting flavour that requires getting used to. The above mentioned Physalis spp. and P. angulata produce uniquely flavoured fruit that are, in my opinion, very tasty. These all have golden/yellow fruit that are encased in a papery husk.

    All of these plants are easy to grow. They can be cultured much like tomatoes. The Physalis will do better if you have some heat to your summers.
     
  9. peppy

    peppy Member

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    Back in Africa we consume a lot of this Garden Huckleberry so this year instead of just buying it from the Minneapolis farmers market ,i wanted to grow it my self but getting the real seeds is a problem.I have been to all the local retailers that deal with seeds but cannot get them.I am hesitant about ordering the seeds online because i am not very sure i will get the real thing.Growing up we knew that there is a plant tha looks like the Garden Huckle berry this one is bitter when eaten and the leaves are kind of spearlike while the real Garden Huckle berry is kind of rounder and the seeds are kind really purple when mature.Can some one tell me where to get the real Garden huckleberry please
     
  10. Durgan

    Durgan Contributor 10 Years

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    Wonderberry - Solanum burbankii - Seeds Seeds are available here. My interest is piqued, and I ordered the seeds. It should be an interesting experiment. Thanks for all the information. I ordered the Solanum burbankii. Solanum melanocerasum is also available

    Wonderberry
    Solanum burbankii
    a.k.a. Garden Huckleberry, Sunberry
    Sunset Zones: All zones
    USDA: All zones
    Small, dark purple fruit closely resembling the highly poisonous nightshade. The ripe fruits don't taste like much, but when cooked with sugar, have a pleasant berry flavor that is usually used as a flavoring for pies and desserts.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 10, 2020
  11. MANGLEDINAL

    MANGLEDINAL New Member

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    Re: Garden Huckleberry & Ground Cherry

    I ordered some asparagus from BURGESS SEED, Bloomington, IL. In addition to my plants, they also sent me a seed packet of Solanum melanocerasum or Garden Huckleberry. I had heard of these, but never ate any. My grandma (1888-1975) used to make huckleberry pie when she owned a restaurant in Roy, NM. Everyone said it was the best pie in th house. She had sold her restaurant by the time I was born, so I never tried it. So, it is edible; everywhere I've looked for a recipe says to wait till the berries are dull.
    As I said, my huckleberry seeds came from Burgess, their item #6412.

    In regard to Ground Cherry or Husk Tomato or as I first heard them called: Tomatillos.
    These are delicious! We fix ours like Fried Green Tomatoes or in a salsa that is wonderful on grilled ribeyes. If you want seed, Burgess carries them: Item #6709. Totally Tomatoes, Park Seed and others carry them as well.
    Great gardening, good eating to you all!
     
  12. arlie

    arlie New Member

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    i believe ground cherries are not tomatillos, right?
     
  13. djmortensen

    djmortensen New Member

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    To Arlie:

    Ground cherries are not tomatillos but they are closely related.

    Ground cherries and tomatillos are in the same family (Solanaceae) together with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers. But ground cherries share the same genus (Physalis) as tomatillos (meaning they are more closely related to each other than they are to tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers which are different genera than ). Ground cherries and tomatillos are different species of the same genus, which helps to explain their differing taste, size, and color.
     
  14. Nick Elfrink

    Nick Elfrink New Member

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    Huckleberries: Have grown them for past three years since obtaining a half dozen small plants from Amish gardener. Wonderful plant! Very prolific, easy to start and grow. One dried berry produces enough seeds to plant a small garden with nothing but huckleberries! Were advised to wait until after hard frost to harvest and use. Have done so. We freeze them in plastic bags for later use. My wife makes a delicious cobbler which rivals same made with blueberries.
     
  15. Momma’s Green Thumb

    Momma’s Green Thumb New Member

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    You will love these berries. I grew up with them in our garden as a child. At the time I lived In USA, where they reseeded themselves and our garden was full of them. We never had to plant them we just had to remove plants from unwanted areas.
    My family immigrated from Germany/Russia somewhere around a hundred years ago. I believe the seeds came with when we/they immigrated.
    We have always called them a blackberry. I have never met anyone else other then family that has grown them.
    I have made jam, syrup, baked them in many dessert dishes. The flavour was unsurpassed in my book.
    My family has now lived in Canada for many years and I searched for them and what they were called since moving here.
    I finally found them 3 years ago. At that time I found Golden Sun berries at my local favourite greenhouse. The owner answered the rest of my questions. I bought plants and seeds last year and finally success with my own plants in my garden.
    I have yet to figure out whether they reseed themselves in Alberta. They seemed a bit fussy on bring transplanted, however grew well from seed.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 11, 2020

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