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What are Farkleberries? Or did I just make that up?

March 23, 2017 • erthwitch

If you’ve read First Hunt, you might have noticed the part where Treya is tasked with gathering farkleberries.

Are They Real?

You might have wondered if such a berry is a real thing, or if I just made it up along with all the other made up things in that story.

A ripe farkleberry from the Wild Ozark woods.

Ripe farkleberries in the Wild Ozark woods.

So there you have it. That’s a farkleberry, and it’s a real thing. They go by other names such as sparkleberries, huckleberries, and tree blueberries. The Latin binomial is Vaccinium arboreum.

Here’s the passage where Treya is learning about them:

The bush was covered with small blue-black berries, some of them beginning to shrivel but many still plump. Several of the bushes grew in the small area.

“Gather these while I make camp,” he said.

“What are they?” I asked, looking dubiously at the berries.

“Farkleberries. Good to eat fresh or dried,” he said as he popped on into his mouth. “Not so good to cook, but good to eat off the bush.”

I wished now I had paid more attention to the plants my parents collected during cataloging expeditions.

On the other side of the patch of bushes was a gigantic boulder. Under one side of it was a hollowed out spot. The rock overhang made a roof. DRSS passed the farkleberry bushes and set his pack down just outside the shadow of the rock. He started kicking smaller rocks out of the hollow.

~ excerpt from First Hunt, book one of the Bounty Hunter Trilogy (a first rural fantasy novel)

Are Farkleberries Edible?

I’ve read conflicting information about whether they taste good or whether they’re better used in jams or pies. So I tried some for myself last year. To me, they do have a good flavor, but they are tart. I think they’d make good jelly.

But they’re tiny, about the size of my little finger tip. It would take a lot of them to gather enough for much jelly or to make a pie. I also ate one that was past ripe and nearly shriveled. If you ask me, that one tasted better.

I don’t recommend going about in the woods sampling the berries you find unless you know what they are. Some things that grow in the woods are poisonous to humans but downright tasty to animals. Mushrooms, especially. Squirrels can eat mushrooms that would make a person wish they were dying. Squirrels have a certain enzyme that allows them to digest the toxin. People don’t.

More Information

There’s a great site called “Foraging Texas” that goes into a lot of detail about them and many other plants. The site is about foraging for wild things in Texas, but the farkleberries, and lots of the other plants he profiles on his site do grow here in the Ozarks too.

What else eats farkleberries?

Well, according to one reader, Lisa, maybe unicorns like to eat them. At least that’s what her daughters speculated. But they’re called “sparkleberries” to them. And I figured woodsprites like them, so she sent a pic of one of her woodsprites 🙂

A little woodsprite who pro bably likes sparkleberries.

A little woodsprite who probably likes sparkleberries.

In reality, though, birds and all sorts of woodland critters like to eat them. Most of them are gone by the time I ever get out there to check on them.


 

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