Preliminary Success in Taming the Wild Huckleberry

Posted September 23, 2016 By sandy

The Spokesman Review reports success in taming the wild huckleberry in their recent article which is quickly spreading to many news outlets.

Combining the original research, by Dr. Dan Barney at the University of Idaho’s Sandpoint Research station, WSU and others are working successfully to cultivate wild huckleberry plants.

Here are the highlights of the article By Becky Kramer:

Preliminary Success in Taming the Wild Huckleberry

WSU researchers taming the wild huckleberry

…Washington State University researchers are setting their sights on domesticating the wild huckleberry, a goal that has eluded plant scientists for decades.

Huckleberries are notoriously fickle plants. The mountain shrubs don’t transplant well and even huckleberry bushes grown from seeds seldom produce fruit.

But in a WSU greenhouse, cloned shrubs are producing berries. Scientists say their ultimate goal is a sturdy plant with high yields of the tangy-tart berries….

At the Pullman campus, rows of potted huckleberries are starting to display red fall leaves. They’re the cloned descendents of two huckleberry plants that Biotechnology Manager Nathan Tarlyn purchased at a commercial nursery several years ago.

Huckleberries growing in the mountains don’t produce until they’re about 5 to 7 years old. But in the greenhouse’s controlled climate, the 18-month-old plants flowered this spring. Tarlyn brought in bumblebees to cross pollinate the huckleberries with blueberries.

Now, he has 2,000 tiny seedlings from this year’s berry crop, which will be studied for desirable traits….

The work at WSU is taking a different approach to domesticating huckleberries than previous efforts at the University of Idaho’s Sandpoint research and extension office.

UI horticulture professor Dan Barney’s research focused on developing a pure strain of domestic huckleberries, without a blueberry influence. In a 2005 interview, Barney said he didn’t want to sacrifice flavor for abundance. Budget cuts ended the research, and Barney has since retired.

But higher yields are important for making huckleberries viable for commercial growers, Dhingra said. He hopes to release a domestic huckleberry within a few years that can be licensed. It would be sold with a proprietary high-acid soil mix and fertilizer….

Joe Culbreth has 1,200 huckleberry bushes on his 15-acre fruit and nut farm in Rathdrum. Six years after after the bushes went into the ground, he picked his first berries this summer….

But why the bushes produced this year remains a mystery to Culbreth, who wondered if the plants’ age or weather-related conditions triggered the fruit….

The bushes spread by rhizomes, which means an entire patch might be one or two plants. That’s why the shrubs don’t transplant well. Even starting a huckleberry bush from a transplanted rhizome is tricky. The plants seem to lack something from their original environment that they need to flourish.

But the cloned huckleberries in the WSU lab appear to be thriving in the potting soil mix. “We’re giving it a new environment,” Dhingra said…

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Huckleberries Important to Animals too!

Posted September 15, 2016 By sandy

We hear lots about how important huckleberries are to the Native Americans, commercial pickers and gourmet food producers, but we seldom think about how huckleberries are important to animals living in the forest.

Last year, we shared a couple posts about the huckleberry research Tabitha

Tabitha Graves

Tabitha Graves

Graves was conducting.

The Missoulian recently published another article on her research.  Here are some of the highlights:

Researchers start long-term hunt for huckleberry secrets

When Tabitha Graves took up carnivore research for the U.S. Geological Survey base at Glacier National Park, one of the biggest puzzles needing attention was the role huckleberries play in the food chain. Although creatures from grasshoppers to grizzlies like the purple fruit, we know little about what the berries themselves like.

“The more I’ve gotten into this, the more I’ve realized how important they are,” Graves said. “All kinds of birds eat them, as do small mammals. We’ve found coyote scats with berries in them. We’ve seen wasps eating them. And of course, humans eat a lot of them.”

Then there are the snowshoe hares and deer and moose that munch on huckleberry leaves, at least six species of bee that collect huckleberry pollen, and who knows what kinds of mycorrhizal fungi that grow together with the roots. Did we mention bears eat them, too?

All that might explain why huckleberries have resisted all attempts at domestication. The inability to grow huckleberry bushes in a greenhouse or garden has frustrated researchers for decades. It’s also left big parts of the plant’s life cycle unknown.

… Wildlife managers know that good or bad huckleberry crops influence how many black and grizzly bears wander into town looking for apples or bird feeders – but they don’t know how to predict a good or bad year. Huckleberries react to drought and drenching conditions, but can they forecast them? How might forest thinning and hazardous fuels work affect huckleberry patches?

Read the rest of this interesting article

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Huckleberry Lemon Ginger Yogurt Pops

Posted September 6, 2016 By sandy

Now that huckleberry season is winding down, we are featuring some really interested recipes that you can make using your huckleberries.

Of course, huckleberry pie and muffins are some of our readers’ favorites, but have you every tried making yogurt pops with huckleberries?

Here is a recipe I found the State Eats website (Montana recipe, but not just for folks from Montana!!)

Huckleberry Lemon Ginger Yogurt Pops

Huckleberry Lemon Ginger Yogurt Pops

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 heaping cup huckleberries
  • Zest from one lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. In a small pan, combine sugar and water. Heat over medium until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat, add ginger. Set aside until cool, then refrigerate.
  3. In the meantime, in the bowl of a food processor, process huckleberries until smooth.
  4. Place huckleberry puree in a sieve over a medium bowl. With a rubber spatula, press puree through the sieve, so that seeds and skin are left behind. Add lemon zest and lemon juice to the puree.
  5. When simple syrup is cold, remove from refrigerator, discarding ginger slices.
  6. Add simple syrup to puree, then add yogurt. Pour mixture into molds.
  7. Freeze for at least 4 hours or until hard.
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2016/09/06/huckleberry-lemon-ginger-yogurt-pops/

Sounds like a cool refreshing dessert on a warm day!

 

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Beware of Bears

Posted August 31, 2016 By sandy

Huckleberries are an important source of food for bears, so if you are out picking, make sure to watch!

Here is a recent story published in the Spokesman Review Outdoors Blog by Rich Landers …

Berry picker suffers bites after surprising grizzly

A park employee, while off duty picking huckleberries in the Swiftcurrent valley, surprised what is believed to be a grizzly bear. She sustained non-life threatening injuries to the leg and the hands. The surprise encounter which led to a non-predatory attack occurred on Saturday in the early evening.

The woman walked most of the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail back before she was met by park rangers an taken to medical help.

She was carrying bear spray but it was not deployed. Hikers reported a grizzly bear sow and two cubs leaving the area shortly after the incident.

The last Glacier National Park visitor injury by a grizzly bear was on Sept. 29, 2015, when a 65-year old male hiker surprised a sow grizzly with two sub-adult cubs, receiving puncture wounds to his lower leg and injuries to his hand.

READ MORE HERE

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Domesticating wild huckleberries is a project that several different agencies have researched over the years.  Dr. Dan Barney,who has been a friend of this organization since its inception, has several articles on his findings while working at the University of Idaho’s Sandpoint Research center (which was closed in 2010).

New Development on Domesticating Wild Huckleberries

Dr. Dan Barney presentation at the Elk River Huckleberry Workshop held in 2005

Nathan Tarlyn, a research assistant at Washington State University, has recently picked up the torch on domesticating wild huckleberries , according to an article by Taryn Phaneuf in CrossCut.com.

Here are some excerpts from her article:

Taming the Northwest’s beloved huckleberry

Huckleberries are completely wild — they won’t be found lined up in rows on farms like their tamed cousin, the blueberry. Instead, thousands of people appear in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest each year, armed with buckets and permits, looking to cash in on a berry crop that retails for upward of $10 per pound.

Previous attempts have failed because wild huckleberries’ dependence on their ecosystem makes them notoriously hard to grow anywhere else. But Tarlyn works in a lab known for its deep dives into plant genomes that wind up solving major problems in the world of tree fruit, and the huckleberry puzzle caught researchers’ attention. Three years after he introduced the challenge, a set of huckleberry plants growing in a campus greenhouse produced fruit — a process that takes closer to seven years in the wild. Researchers estimate that within another year, the first domesticated variety will be ready….

The lab began with tissue cultures from wild huckleberry plants Tarlyn bought at a wild plant store. Normally, it would take years for those cuttings to reach maturity, but a previous breakthrough by Dhingra’s lab altered the timeline. They pioneered a method for propagating plants five times faster than traditional nurseries using a soil-free, nutrient-rich medium….

Step by step, the lab saw success with huckleberries: With the right soil mix, plants survived in the greenhouse, where researchers could manipulate the conditions to speed up growth. To get berries this year, Tarlyn put blueberry plants in the greenhouse and released bumblebees for pollination. The unorthodox method worked, and now they’re germinating new huckleberry seeds to see what traits the crosses will have that may lead to an attractive variety later….

“Our goal is to have the productivity of a blueberry and the quality of a wild huckleberry,” Dhingra says….

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I have heard wild huckleberries called lot of things, but ‘crack cocaine of the Rockies’ was a new one on me.

Seabury Blair Jr. wrote a very interesting perspective on huckleberry pickers for the Kitsap Sun.

Huckleberries -- 'Crack Cocaine of the Rockies'?

Here are some excerpts form his article:

Berry picking like a drug at Mount Rainier

B.B. Hardbody, my infinitely better half, says she has noticed several differences between the hikers we’ve met over there and the hikers we see in the Olympics and west side of the Cascades …

One of the differences I’ve noticed is that while the lure of chanterelles and other fungi draws many to the great outdoors in our neck of the woods, there’s an even greater siren on the other side of the state. They call them huckleberries, but I call them the crack cocaine of the Rockies.

Yes, you will find blueberry or huckleberry pickers on trails around the Olympics and Cascades, but the pastime doesn’t hold a candle to the droves of berry hunters there. They stampede up the trails like bull elk in the rut, trampling through the forests wild-eyed and drooling.

I may exaggerate. But not by much….

Hardbody stopped to pick a few and mentioned how tasty they were. I’m something of a berry snob and only stop for those delectable low bush huckleberries that grow on the alpine slopes.

“You gotta try these,” she said, already displaying the telltale purple tongue of an addict.

So I did. I found them sweeter and more succulent than almost any huckleberry I’ve ever tasted.

Still, we had miles to go and little time for picking. I charged ahead — if my waddle these days can be called “charging.”

Hardbody lagged behind, slurping berries like an anteater might inhale its food. She reminded me of a berry-sucking Dyson….

Well, I hope all you huckleberry ‘crack addicts’ got your fill of huckleberries this season!!

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Huckleberry Recipes from Oklahoma

Posted August 23, 2016 By sandy

Remember when I told you that Jay, Oklahoma considered itself the Huckleberry Capital of the World?

Well agree or disagree, but they have posts some delicious huckleberry recipes in the aftermath of the huckleberry festival earlier this summer.

Huckleberry Recipes from Oklahoma

Check out the following recipes published on the Grand Lakes News website:

  • Huckleberry Buckle
  • Huckleberry Fritters
  • Huckleberry Ice Cream
  • Huckleberry Raspberry Jello Salad
  • Huckleberry Banana Shake
  • Fresh Huckleberry Cream Pie
  • One more ….

Huckleberry Sweet Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 C. self-rising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 C. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 C. huckleberries, fresh or frozen (thaw slightly to separate)

Instructions

  1. Cream eggs, butter and sugar in large bowl.
  2. Gently stir flour, milk and vanilla to the mixture.
  3. Sprinkle extra flour on the huckleberries to keep them from sticking together (helps them stay up in the batter, without dropping to the bottom of the pan).
  4. Fold the berries into the mixture and pour into small loaf pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
  6. Turn out of pan and slice when cool
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2016/08/23/huckleberry-recipes-oklahoma/

Check out the other recipes

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Castle Mountain Huckleberry Festival

Posted August 20, 2016 By sandy

The annual huckleberry festival in Castle Mountain in Alberta Canada is now a 3-day festival!

The festival started on Friday and is going through until Sunday.

Huckleberry Festival

Huck Fest grows to 3 days

The majority of the activities take place Saturday at the ski area west of Pincher Creek.

Breakfast is available from 9-10:30 a.m. in the daylodge. Then from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. people can ride the chairlift to take in the scenery and get to the best huckleberry picking spots on the mountain.

A flea market will be set up from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. as well as activities for children from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. including a bouncy castle, games and face painting.

A barbecue lunch is available from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and there is a pig roast buffet supper at 6 p.m. A silent auction will be set up also on the Saturday, with proceeds benefiting the Castle Mountain Community Association.

Live music will be playing from noon to 8 p.m. as well at 9 p.m. when Elk Run Riot takes the stage.

Again a campfire Saturday night closes out the day if the weather permits.

Sunday features breakfast in the T-Bar Pub from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It looks good,” says Crawford, about the huckleberry crop on the mountain. “The guys were out the other day working and they ate huckleberries for their lunches.”

While the ski resort is slower in the summer months, the facilities are still used for weddings, conferences and retreats.

The Huckleberry Festival is the biggest event for CMR during the warmer season.

More information

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Huckleberry Stories in the News

Posted August 18, 2016 By sandy

So many huckleberry stories in the news …. mostly due to the more abundant crop this year.

So many stories, that I think I am going to list several of them here for you to check out:

Berry picking with Huckleberry Hound

By JERRY PAINTER from Post Register

Saturday, my wife, dog and I drove up into the hills past Kelly Canyon, threw up a tent, ate some dinner and went hunting for the tiny purple berries…

Sunny, a golden retriever, snacks on huckleberries in the Kelly Canyon area on Saturday. Sunny is now learning to answer to the name of Huckleberry Hound …

 

Researchers try to unlock berry mysteries

By Sam Wilson at the Daily Inter Lake

Huckleberry enthusiasm has been elevated to obsession in Northwest Montana, where purveyors of the seasonal fruit advertise products ranging from jams, pies, salads and milkshakes to candles, coffee, wine and beer — even huckleberry-flavored cartridges for electronic cigarettes.

Yet for the scientists who know that the berries play a key role in the ecosystems of Northern Rockies, a full understanding of the huckleberry plant remains elusive.

 

THE FOODIE FILES: How I Huckleberry

By Annie Fenn, MD  with the Planet Jackson Hole

NOTE:  This article has a yummy recipe for Huckleberry Chia Seed Jam!!

The problem with the huckleberry season around here is that it arrives in the middle of summer. As soon as I get wind that those wild little berries are in, I make grand plans to head out to the hills and fill my buckets. My intention is always to gather enough huckleberries to keep my family rolling in huckleberry pancakes, pies, and jam all winter long…

 

Huckleberry buyers reveal their secrets

By Lynne Haley at the Bonners Ferry Herald

Even though many of the old mines in North Idaho are long since played out, riches remain for those who know where to find them. The region’s wild huckleberries are ripe for the taking this time of year, and Bonners Ferry residents have a go-to source for turning the fruits of their labor into cold cash…..

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Huckleberry Picking Tips

Posted August 12, 2016 By sandy

Everyone has their own huckleberry picking tips or techniques we use when picking berries, but I think we can all agree on the following:

There are many tips and tricks to the art of huckleberry picking, but only one rule: never, ever reveal the location of your personal huckleberry heaven.

The ‘tip’ above appeared an article on The Lewiston Tribune website.

Huckleberry Picking TipsHere are some of the tips that Ruthie Prasil listed in her article:

Juicy Little Secrets!

You’ll want to be up in the mountains where it’s cooler. Once you’re looking at a temperature in the low- to mid-70s, try turning off some Forest Service access roads. Parking along these and hiking up just a bit is usually good practice.

Bring small buckets and Ziploc baggies. Some of my saddest moments in life have been watching my full bucket of berries slowly tip over and tumble down the mountainside. Every now and then, transfer your berries to the Ziploc bag and snap that sucker shut.

You’ll want good shoes (closed toe, good for climbing) and long pants. It wouldn’t hurt to carry bear spray, but I say that because I’m always afraid of wolves or bears attacking out of nowhere.

Huckleberry plants or bushes look like this: Lots of green leaves with berries scattered throughout. They are nothing like raspberry bushes or strawberry plants, with big berries tightly packed together. Huckleberries are tiny and delicate. You’re lucky to get two or three on the same twig.

Berry colors vary, but you want the ones that are more blue/purple than pink. Leave the green and pink ones and grab them the next time you’re out, once they’ve ripened.

Huckleberries are soft and fragile. You know how with herbs and some fruits, you can hold onto one end of the plant and by pinching your thumb and pointer together, slide it down the plant while the herbs or berries slide off? This is not the case with huckleberries. If you try that, you will end up with a juicy, purple mess. They must be picked one by one, and carefully at that. Once you’re used to handling them and picking them, you’ll be able to hold your bucket over the plant while you quickly pluck them one by one and let them fall.

Great tips!Igloo Cooler

One thing, we, at the International Wild Huckleberry Association, would suggest is to use a small  ‘Igloo style’ cooler for storing your picked berries.  If you use ziplock bags during a hot day, you can cook your berries!

Check out more huckleberry picking tips.

 

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