Huckelberries Versus Saskatoon Berries (June Berries/Service Berries)

Since living in N.D., Alberta and Montana I have learned that some like and some do not like either berry. You decide!


If you are not familiar with this little gem of a berry, then you may know it by its alias “Juneberry." Interestingly enough, U.S. marketers started asking Canadian growers to change their labeling a number of years ago, so the Saskatoon berry gets a name change to Juneberry at the Canadian/ U.S. border.

The reason for this was that researchers at Cornell University found that although Americans loved the taste of Saskatoon berries, the name Saskatoon berry didn’t resonate as well as Juneberry. That's why you'll hear it referred to by both names in North America. And in some parts (mostly Ontario), Saskatoons are also known as Serviceberries.  But Saskatoon berries, Juneberries and Serviceberries are all the same berry!

Huckleberries and Serviceberries

Author: Betty Homer

I recently returned from vacationing at Yellowstone National Park, both on the Montana and Wyoming sides of the park.  Although the park is infinitely fascinating and I strongly recommend that everyone visit at least once, the topic of this blog pertains to another well-known and beloved mainstay in the area known as the huckleberry (the two most popular varieties being the globe huckleberry and the big huckleberry known as Vaccinium globulare and Vaccinium membranaceum, respectively).  Although residents of Montana and Wyoming may cringe or disagree with this characterization, to this native Californian, wild huckleberries taste much like the blueberries to which we are accustomed (indeed, a restaurant employee of a park concessionaire  said to me that to him, the huckleberry was essentially a “mountain blueberry”).  Big and globe huckleberries are usually picked from May to July in the mountains where elevation stands between 3,500 and 7,200 feet.   They tend to establish themselves years after a fire has swept through an area.  The harvesters of such fruit even have a unique name—they are called "huckleberriers."  A few years back, huckleberries were selling between $35-40 a gallon.  Huckleberry products line the shelves of gift stores and supermarkets in Montana and Wyoming.  As with most berries, huckleberries can be made into syrup, used in baked goods and ice cream, preserves and salad dressings. 

Although we cannot experience true huckleberries locally apart from ordering products on-line, the closest thing we have to it here is a perennial shrub called the serviceberry aka shadeberry, Juneberry, or Saskatoon (Family: Rosaceae; Genus: Amelanchier).  Service berry plant starts can be found at well-stocked nurseries in the Bay Area.  It is my understanding that the serviceberry is an easier plant to grow than blueberries, and may be a prolific producer under ideal conditions starting in year 2 (shrub grows to 3' tall and will send out runners).  If you are a berry enthusiast, consider the serviceberry for your garden.



Scientific name: Vaccinium

Taste: sour, bitter, sweet

Health benefits: Huckleberries are similar to blueberries in appearance but contain less sugar, and hence have a bitterer flavor. They’re rich in fiber, vitamins A, B and C, antioxidants and iron. Huckleberries are also known for their ability to lower cholesterol and protect the body against heart disease, varicose veins, glaucoma and muscular degeneration.

Saskatoon Berry/Juneberry

Scientific name: Amelanchier alnifolia

Taste: sweet, nutty, earthy

Health benefits: They look a lot like blueberries but are softer and redder in color. Native to Alaska, Western Canada and parts of the U.S., saskatoon berries are rich in antioxidants and work wonders against inflammation and arthritis. Use them to boost your intake of magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, copper and more.

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