By Andrew Wagner-Chazalon
Picking blueberries on huckleberry rock?
There are at least 40 different plants known as huckleberries, and 20 more known as blueberries. Eleven of these grow in Ontario, many of them in Muskoka. So what do you call the berries you pick on Huckleberry Rock?
It depends largely on what your grandmother called them.
The plants are almost indistinguishable to the casual observer. Scientists use seeds to distinguish huckleberries from blueberries: huckleberries have ten or so hard seeds, while blueberries have more, but softer seeds.
But most pickers in Muskoka distinguish based on colour – huckleberries are usually described as being darker and not as sweet as blueberries. Some old-time pickers had preferences – huckleberries for pie, blueberries for jam, or vice versa.
Others, though, use one word indistinguishably, calling every small, blue berry a blueberry. (The opposite is found in many parts of the U.S., where all species of blue- or huckle- are known as huckleberries.)
At least one experienced picker says the rock should be renamed: the best huckleberry patch on the rock was destroyed when the highway blasted through the middle of it, leaving mainly blueberries there now.
Purchase your copy of The Hidden World of Huckleberry Rock here.