Are Montanan’s Getting Hustled by a Huckleberry Scam?
Georgia has its peaches. Florida's got the orange. And in May of this year, Governor Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 880 into law, declaring the Huckleberry as Montana's official state fruit.
The purple-blueish berry has been our unofficial fruit for years. Almost every local restaurant has at least one menu item featuring Huckleberry. There are Huckleberry beers and Huckleberry vodka. Gift shops and travel plazas in Montana will always have a selection of Huckleberry items, so tourists can bring home a little taste of Montana in the form of Huckleberry syrups, candies, lip balm, you name it.
Raw Huckleberries are super expensive.
If you're lucky enough to know someone who sells them, expect to pay a premium. I saw an independent seller on Marketplace this year offering a gallon of huckleberries (about five pounds) for $95!! They're so expensive because they're nearly impossible to domesticate. Researchers say they're getting close to developing a huckleberry variety that can be grown in backyard gardens, but in the meantime, the only way to get them is in the wild. In the high country. Risking bears, mosquitos, and treacherous terrain. Needless to say, prized huckleberry patches are a closely guarded secret.
Look at labels closely.
Some companies appear to be tiptoeing the line of deceptive marketing when it comes to their products containing any real Huckleberries. One example is the Huckleberry-flavored Flathead Lake Gourmet Soda (above). There are zero Huckleberries in the ingredient list. Also, it's now made in New Jersey, so... not exactly a Montana company.
"Natural flavors" could be Huckleberry imposters.
Blue Bunny's Huckleberry ice cream doesn't appear to contain any actual huckleberries, according to its ingredient list. The product description reads,
Swirled with sweet blueberries, our premium huckleberry ice cream features floral notes and a flavor that recalls homemade blueberry pie.
Montana's Wilcoxin's Huckleberry Ice Cream, however, does list the state fruit as its seventh ingredient, "FDA APPROVED NATURAL HUCKLEBERRY FLAVOR." Some people may not notice, or care, but if you're expecting real Huckleberries in all of those tasty, touristy, Huckleberry treats, make sure to check the label.