Confession: When I first discovered the huckleberry, I suspected it might be completely made up. I’d never heard the word huckleberry used in any context, except for the name of a certain vintage cartoon dog.
If huckleberries were real, how come I hadn’t seen them in my local produce section, or in places where berries normally show up, like teas and cereals?
Turns out, I just hadn’t visited the right part of the country. People in the Midwest may not have much experience with this berry, but western Montana is Huckleberry Heaven. The small, purple-ish berries are real, and they’re spectacular. Huckleberries in Montana are everywhere.
During my five days in Glacier Country, I did not see a single menu that did not have at least one huckleberry item, from the basics like pie and cobbler to more unusual offerings like huckleberry cheesecake compote.
Huckleberry hot chocolate, anyone?
Some of the huckleberry foods seemed like popular dishes among local residents, while others were clearly created to market to tourists (huckleberry popcorn?!?), but almost all of them were sweet and delicious.
Every time I visit Montana, I discover new huckleberry items. New discoveries on my recent trip to Billings included wild huckleberry hand cream and huckleberry-scented candles.
Also, there’s huckleberry BBQ sauce. This could be very tasty! Many barbecue sauces have a sweet side to counter the spicy kick. I regret not buying the BBQ sauce when I had the chance.
Huckleberry Season in Montana
Want to find some huckleberries on your own? They grow wild in the mountains and forests. They’re full of sugar, making them a favorite food of bears, so watch your back out there!
Huckleberries look similar to darker blueberries. Late summer is considered to be huckleberry season in Montana, with the tastiest berries available for picking between mid-August and mid-September.
Locals have been known to keep their favorite huckleberry-picking spots secret to avoid competition. So we won’t be sharing any specific places to find them. But if you’re doing a lot of Montana hiking, you may happen upon some along the way.
If you really want huckleberries in Montana, forget trying to find them in the wild – stop by a restaurant or farmer’s market at one of the towns near Glacier NP.
Even if they don’t have your favorite huckleberry item on the menu, they might be willing to accommodate your crazy desires, like a huckleberry float made from huck ice cream and pop.
As a sweet fruit similar to a blueberry, the huckleberry would seem to be perfect for boozy mixed drinks. Fortunately, some area distilleries make huckleberry vodka and other spirits. Bartenders will gladly serve up a huckleberry margarita.
Ready for the full list? I witnessed huckleberry being used in the following forms in Montana: jam, taffy, ice cream, bear claw, macaroon, vodka, margarita, pie, coffee, vinaigrette, licorice, pop, BBQ sauce, seltzer water, pancakes, syrup, lemonade, iced tea, hot chocolate, chapstick, cobbler, lollipops, pretzel bites, cheesecake compote, gummy grizzlies, jelly beans, dark chocolate huckleberry candy bar, milkshakes, hand cream, candles.
That’s a crazy number of different uses for one little berry!
Quirky Travel Guy’s Favorite Huckleberry Foods in Montana:
5. Huckleberry licorice
Licorice edges taffy for the #5 spot on my berry countdown. Both are good but the licorice captures more of the sweetness.
4. Huckleberry margarita
Booze! All that glorious liquor gives the huckleberry margarita from the Northern Lights Saloon in Polebridge an unfair advantage.
Runner-up in the booze category goes to the Tupelo Grille‘s Moonshine Mule, made with huckleberry simple syrup.
3. Huckleberry ice cream
How often do you get to see periwinkle-colored ice cream? I like this stuff for the novelty factor alone. But it’s also very tasty – sugary but not overpowering.
2. Huckleberry jam
I had a chance to sample the jam at a farmer’s market in Whitefish. This stuff puts Smucker’s to shame. The huckleberry jalapeno jam adds an especially nice kick. Another flavor worth trying: “chuckleberry,” a mix of cherry and huckleberry.
1. Huckleberry macaroon
I’m obsessed with coconut, so I love pretty much any kind of macaroon. The huckleberry macaroon I got at the Polebridge Mercantile was perfect, with a nice, chewy texture and just the right amount of sweetness. I want all of the macaroons!
Do you have a favorite huckleberry Montana food?