Huckleberries and Fire, Part One

Posted August 26, 2015 By sandy

Following is the first in a three part article on Huckleberries and Fire by Malcolm Dell aka Mr. Huckleberry

Wild huckleberries of the genus Vaccinium – common to the western US and parts of Europe – are rhizomatous, forming colonies of bushes that are really just one plant. A seed sprouts, and then the roots (called rhizomes) spread through the soil, popping up stems in the adjacent area, thereby forming a “patch”.

Huckleberries & Fire

This characteristic of huckleberries leads to the myth that hucks cannot be commercialized. People go to the woods, shovel up a stem/rhizome (which is really just a twig or branch), and stick it in the ground at home, in an inappropriate soil type. Results are predictable.

Note that huckleberry soils are highly acidic – a common trait of the rich coniferous and sub-alpine forest habitats where they are found.

Huckleberries actually grow very easily from their VERY tiny seeds. Smear ripe berries across a paper towel or fine wire mess such as a dense strainer, let them dry and save them. Carefully! Breathing on them may send them flying.

But that is another story.

So, the questions here becomes… how does fire affect huckleberry ecology and future crops? And what can we expect in the aftermath of an historic fire season…one that affected many tens of thousands of acres of potential huckleberry habitat?

Generally, huckleberry colonies or patches – like virtually all brushy species – are heavily stimulated by fire.

After a fire, competition for space, water, and nutrients is reset to zero; the darker soil attracts early spring warmth; and the burnt plant materials fertilize the soil with massive amounts of mineral-rich ash. Roots that survive the fire (most do), sprout with a vengeance the following spring. After almost any fire, the landscape literally turns into a far richer green than it was the spring before the fire.

For some species, fire “scarifies” seeds or cones, allowing them to sprout more easily after a fire, as part of their natural ecology. Examples would be lodgepole pine and red-stem ceonothus (a preferred elk browse).

Of course, fire intensity may affect which species are promoted after a fire, and whether huckleberries come back.

Hucks grow best in full sunlight, up to about 30% shade, at which time the colonies begin to decline. So, openings from fire (historically) and clearcutting (more recently), are usually critical to an abundance of healthy patches. Sometimes patches also rejuvenate after insects or disease remove the coniferous overstory, letting in sunlight.

Stay tuned for Part 2

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Donnelly Huckleberry Festival

Posted August 14, 2015 By sandy

Check out the Donnelly, Idaho Annual Huckleberry Festival, August 14th thru 16th, 2015, for a fun filled weekend:

Donnelly Huckleberry Festival

Friday:  Vendor Court 12pm to 6pm

Saturday

  • Vendor Court 9am to 6pm
  • Huck Trot 5K 9am
  • Parade 12pm
  • Pie Eating Contest 12:45pm
  • Rodeo 1pm
  • Concert/Street Dance featuring Jeff Crosby 7pm

Sunday

  • Vendors 10am – 3pm
  • Huckleberry Pancake Breakfast 8am – 11am
  • Dessert Contest 11am
  • Rodeo 1pm

For more information, contact the Greater Donnelly Area Chamber of Commerce

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Huckleberry Crisp

Posted August 10, 2015 By sandy

Have you ever tried huckleberry crisp?

I found this recipe on Beyond the Chicken Coop blog by Kathy.

Here recipe uses granola for the ‘crisp’ portion which makes it very fun and easy to make.

Huckleberry Crisp

Huckleberry Crisp

Ingredients

  • 4 cups wild huckleberries
  • 1 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups granola
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup flour

Instructions

  1. Mix huckleberries, sugar and ¼ cup flour together. Pour into a baking dish.
  2. In another bowl, mix granola, butter, and ¼ flour together.
  3. Pour granola mixture over huckleberries.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes.
  5. Keep a close eye on your crisp. You want the mixture to be bubbling, but you don't want your topping to burn
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2015/08/10/huckleberry-crisp/

Check out Kathy’s full article include her picture of ‘purple hands’!

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New Facebook Group for Huckleberry Lovers!

Posted August 6, 2015 By sandy

We have just published a huckleberry group where you can share your stories, pictures and recipes for huckleberries:

Huckleberry Hunting and Recipes

Huckleberry Hunting & Recipes

Join our Huckleberry Facebook Group today and get in on the fun!

NOTE:  Our “I Love Wild Huckleberries! Picking, Growing, and Cooking” is also active if you would like to like it as well!

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Huckleberry Muffins

Posted August 3, 2015 By sandy

If you went picking already, and haven’t eaten all your huckleberries yet, let me share a recipe for Huckleberry Muffins!

If you have never had huckleberries, they are similar to blueberries in texture, but the taste is a bit different. Pop a handful of these little berries in your mouth and you are hit with a burst of tart flavor, followed by a sweetness unlike any other. Just a perfect combination for some yummy muffins.

Huckleberry Muffins

Huckleberry Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup oil
  • 1 to ½ cups of huckleberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir with wooden spoon.
  3. Add wet ingredients and stir until well combined.
  4. Gently fold in huckleberries
  5. Pour batter into muffin pan, filling each section ¾ full.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes

Notes

If you want to add a crumble top, mix together ⅓ cup of flour, ⅓ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup melted butter. Sprinkle on top of muffins before baking.

http://wildhuckleberry.com/2015/08/03/huckleberry-muffins-3/

Recipe was found on Spoonie Foodie blog.  Check out the full article for the cute story about The First Batch of Huckleberry Muffins!

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Schweitzer Huckleberry Festival

Posted July 28, 2015 By sandy

If you are traveling or living in north Idaho, you might want to take in the huckleberry festival:

 Schweitzer Mountain Resort 9th annual huckleberry festival on Schweitzer Huckleberry Festival August 2

(more info here)

  • Huckleberry pancake breakfast from 7am to 1pm: $8.95 for adults, $5.00 for kids
  • Hosted huckleberry hikes
  • Huckleberry Color Fun Run & Ride
  • The Huckle Shuttle (to/from picking sites) runs from 9am to 3pm (based on berry availability)
  • Crafts and huckleberry activities in the village from 12:30pm to 4pm
  • Chairlift, Climbing Wall, Monkey Motion, Zip Line open 11am-5pm
  • Arts and Crafts vendors from 11am to 5pm
  • Free live music with Owen and McCoy from 1pm to 4pm

While in the area, you might want to visit Schweitzer’s hiking trails!

​Take in majestic views of Lake Pend Oreille and the surrounding mountain ranges while you feast your taste buds on delicious bursts of huckleberry goodness.  Whether or not you’ve ever enjoyed these iconic Northwest berries, you are in for a tangy, sweet and tart treat!  Our typical huckleberry season lasts from late July until late August.

Sweetness worth stopping for! – eating these berries may make you forget that you came for a hike and two hours later you could find yourself only 100 feet down the trail with a full belly and a silly purple smile!

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Huckleberry Picking Update

Posted July 27, 2015 By sandy

With huckleberry season in full swing, reports are coming in on the availability and picking success.

Here are some of the articles:Huckleberry Picking Update

Idaho Huckleberries Arrive Early, Pickers Out ‘In Droves’

By George Prentice

A particularly warm and dry spring and summer are triggering an earlier huckleberry season this year.The Spokane, Wash. Spokesman-Review is reporting that huckleberry pickers are filling Inland Northwest slopes “in droves.”

Most huckleberries, native to the northwestern United States, grow wild, particularly in national and state parks, They typically require elevations between 2,000 and 11,000 feet and thrive in acidic mountain soil. Huckleberries are also known to grow in lower elevation patches near bodies of water.

“Huckleberry picking is serious business for a lot of people,” Jay Kirchner, spokesman for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, told the Spokesman-Review. “It’s a fun way to connect with the land.”

In addition to Idaho’s Panhandle, Gem State pickers traditionally grab fistfuls of huckleberries in and around Ponderosa State Park in McCall.

Check out this article which includes a video:

Huckleberries are popping up in higher elevations early this year

 

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Huckleberry Picking is On!

Posted July 20, 2015 By sandy

According to the Spokesman Review …

Time is ripe for hounding huckleberries

The same weather that brought a thin snowpack, early runoff and an explosive wildfire season has delivered something that is infinitely more positive: an early and flavorful huckleberry crop.

Berries are now ripening at all elevations, and the word is getting out. Pickers are appearing on Inland Northwest slopes in good numbers.Huckleberry Picking is On!

Highlights from article include ….

The fruit is generally found above 4,000 feet in elevation and is a dominant shrub type in subalpine zones. However, there are small patches of lower-elevation huckleberries, including a number of tantalizing bushes in areas like Priest Lake.

But most huckleberry picking occurs up the slopes, often along hiking trails and old gravel roads….

…For many locals, Mount Spokane State Park is the closest, easiest place to go for berries even though there are many other locations where the berrying is at least as good or better.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort has its ninth annual Huckleberry Festival set for Aug. 2, with picking tours and a “huckle shuttle” to ferry pickers back and forth from the patches.

Priest Lake had its huckleberry festival Saturday.

In Wallace, the town’s huckleberry festival is set for Aug. 14 and 15….

…Huckleberries are found all over the mountain at Schweitzer, and that includes the ski runs. The same goes for Mt. Spokane and the 49 Degrees North ski area at Chewelah Peak.

Despite the early season, some reports indicate that berry production is spotty in places. Dry areas exposed to sun and heat are not producing as well. Berries may also be small….

… Inland Northwest forests contain numerous habitats, many of which offer more shade and moisture. While temperatures reached triple digits in the valleys in late June, temperatures at upper elevations didn’t top the 80s.

And some stress is good for the berries, said author Asta Bowen, who wrote “The Huckleberry Book.” The amount of water a huckleberry gets from melting snow and seasonal rains will dictate flavor intensity. Less water yields more flavor.

Since this year’s berries have been growing on limited moisture, the huckleberries should prove to be tasty….

READ THE FULL ARTICLE
Huckleberry Picking are On!! -- The Huckleberry Book by Asta Bowen

Also quoted in the article is Asta Bowen and her book:  The Huckleberry Book.

Her book is filled with fun stories, information and recipes.

You can find Asta Bowen’s book on our sister site:  Tastes of Idaho.

 

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Huckleberry Pie from Montana

Posted July 16, 2015 By sandy

Found this yummy looking huckleberry pie recipe from the Montana Homesteader.

 

Huckleberry Pie from Montana

Huckleberry Pie from Montana

Ingredients

  • 1 prepared 9″ graham cracker pie crust OR make your own with 1/2 cup butter and 9 full size graham crackers
  • 3 cups huckleberries
  • juice of one lemon
  • 3/4 cup unrefined sugar or honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 heaping TBS arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream

Instructions

  1. To make the graham cracker pie crust, smash the graham crackers into crumbs. Melt the 1/2 cup butter. Mix the butter and graham cracker crumbs. Spread evenly over a 9″ pie plate. Refrigerate.
  2. In a saucepan on the stove, place 1 cup of huckleberries, lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar or honey and 1 cup of water. Heat to boiling.
  3. While the huckleberry mixture is heating, in a small bowl mix the 1 heaping TBS of arrowroot powder and 1/4 cup cold water.
  4. Once the huckleberry mixture starts to boil, stir and let it boil for three minutes. Then slowly pour in the arrowroot mixture and continue to stir. The sauce will thicken quickly. Turn the heat off on the stove.
  5. Set aside 1/4 cup of huckleberries from the remaining two cups of huckleberries. Stir the rest into the huckleberry sauce.
  6. Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and pour in the pie filling. Smooth the top so it is spread evenly. Return the pie to the refrigerator.
  7. To make the whipped cream, place a mixing bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes. This ensures you will have a nice cold bowl to mix the cream and help it turn to whipped cream more quickly. Pour the whipping cream into the chilled bowl. Whip the cream with a mixer on med/high speed until the cream starts to thicken and form peaks. Sprinkle in sugar about 1 TBS at a time, to desired sweetness.
  8. When the whipped cream is finished, remove the huckleberry pie from the refrigerator. Spread the whipped cream evenly over top the pie. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of remaining huckleberries on top to garnish.
  9. Serve immediately or keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2015/07/16/huckleberry-pie-from-montana/

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More on the Montana Huckleberry Forecast

Posted July 11, 2015 By sandy

Sounds like, if you want to go picking in western Montana, it is best to get out there soon or you may not find any huckleberries!!

Hot weather changing Western Montana huckleberry season

Chances are, if you are a passionate huckleberry picker, you have your More on the Montana Huckleberry Forecastspot – your secret spot – that you do not share with others. With our record-setting hot and dry June, the question is will your spot feature the same ripe output you’re used to.

“I think it really puts a burden on the plant. It’s a lot of stress, so we could actually see some of the plants shedding fruit, or having some poor development because of that,” Missoula County Extension Office Horticulturist Seth Swanson said.

He stressed that the season will be far from a total loss, but said you may have to search a little harder to find the good ones. One thing Swanson has found as he has hiked the trails around Western Montana is patches of huckleberries that are out sooner than usual, especially around the 6,000-foot level.

“Warm weather shed some of the snow quite a bit earlier this year, plus coupled with a lower snowpack.  But, really those early warm temperatures – kind of prolonged warm temperatures – kind of sped up that development,” Swanson said.

He told MTN News that with the front end of huckleberry season starting early, it is almost certain that the back end will come sooner than normal.

“Maybe the third week of July, last year looking at some records of mine was pretty prime for picking, and I think we’re going to see that shifted a couple of weeks early.  I’m seeing quite a bit out there right now,” Swanson said.

The bottom line is that if you plan on heading out to your secret huckleberry picking destination this season, don’t wait until it’s too late, and be prepared to spend a little extra time searching in order to fill your bags with your favorite purple summertime treat.

Read the full article from KBZK News

I certainly hope we can find huckleberries in other areas of the Pacific northwest!

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