Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi

Q: What can you tell me about the common garden huckleberry?

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Garden huckleberry

Garden huckleberry

A:  The University has a publication on the garden huckleberry in the genus Solanum.  It is an edible form of the common nightshade weed plant.  Parts of many nightshade plants can be poisonous as they can contain high levels of poisonous alkaloids.  Because of its close relationship with the nightshade family there has been some confusion about ingestion of the fruit of this plant.  It is always best to avoid eating fruit or berries from shrubs or trees in the forest unless you are well acquainted with the plant.  However, garden hackberry is safe to eat. Garden huckleberry is also known as quonderberry, wonderberry, sunberry, moralle, morella, petty morel, solanberry, black berried nightshade, and houndsberry.  The reference to black berried nightshade is very similar to deadly nightshade which is poisonous.  The garden huckleberry plant looks similar to a pepper plant growing to about 2½ foot tall.  The berries are green when immature and black when mature, resembling wild huckleberries. Berries are filled with a greenish pulp, mixed with small pale yellow seeds. The berry flavor is similar to a bitter tomato, which does not sound appealing to me. The berries can be used for making preserves, pies or cooked dishes. Garden huckleberry has been grown in gardens successfully all around Florida. Sow seeds about 1-inch deep at a time, which will allow the plant to grow and mature in warm weather since it is susceptible to cold injury. Space plants 12 to 24 inches apart. It may be transplanted, and a start may be obtained from a cutting. It has few pest problems.

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