Our Home Journal (New Orleans), 2(6): 103 (Aug 19, 1871)

Cultivation of the Huckleberry

We have been furnished, says an exchange, with the following interesting article from the pen of Prof. Balls:

It was scarcely supposed until within a few years, that any of the several species of Huckleberries were susceptible of improvement by cultivation, or that a hybrid of value could be produced by crossing one variety upon another. This, however, after various experiments, has been accomplished by a gentleman residing in Stafford county, Virginia; and has been pronounced by Mr. Philip R. Freas, of Germantown, Pennsylvania, Mr. Horace Greeley, and other celebrated pomologists, as one of the most important discoveries of the age.

Botanists and explorers during the Seminole war discovered, in the swamps of Florida, and limited to a few locations, a species of Vaccinnium, which could hardly be called a Huckleberry. It was fully as large, often larger than the fox-grape, having an acrid taste, but a most fragrant perfume, and containing a large per centum of juice.

Captain Tucker, of Fernandina, Florida, of world-wide celebrity as a pistol shot, who was attached to General Taylor's staff, brought from Lake Ocke-cho-bee some of these plants to Virginia. They were easily acclimated in Stafford county, and were preserved there until six years ago as curiosities in gardens. When Fountain Rose, Esq., ascertaining that they were really a variety of Vaccinnium, conceived the idea of crossing them by the usual method, on the small sweet Huckleberry, so common in our woods. An account of Mr. Rose's experiments would scarcely interest the reader, results, therefore, will only be given.

The acridness of the Florida berry was entirely wanting in the new berry and the sweetness of our small berry retained, with the size, juiciness, and flavor of the Florida species. From a bushel of these hybrids, Mr. Briggs last year produced over five gallons of wine, which surpasses that made from currants and wild grapes. After fermentation, the wine contains as much alcohol as Sherry. The aroma of the new fruit cannot be equaled as a flavoring essence for ice cream and custard. Mr. Rose produced on one square in his garden, say the twelfth of an acre, thirty-nine bushels of the "Osceola Huckleberries," as he has dubbed them. The plant is easily propagated from suckers, grows to the height of thirty inches and stands four feet six inches apart in rows.

What revolution or innovation this new fruit is to effect in wine making, it is difficult to calculate, but it is not improbable that it will seriously effect the cultivation of the Catawba grape, now so extensively used for that purpose. Some of the plants have been sent to G. Thorburn's establishment, and to Mr. Greeley, New York, and Philip R. Freas, of the Germantown Telegraph, has been appointed agent for the sale of a limited supply in the vicinity of Philadelphia. The latter gentleman has now some hundred suckers growing finely in his garden, which will procure fruit in 1872. The color of the berry is a deep purple, exceedingly brilliant, and as already stated, as large, if not larger, than the fox-grape.

It is predicted that the cultivation of this fruit will make Stafford the richest county in the State of Virginia, not excepting Frederick or London.