Huckleberry Season is in Full Swing in North Idaho

I found this article on the CDA Press website:

Idaho’s state fruit starting to ripen

Idaho has a state flower, a state horse, a state bird, a state fish, a state flag, and…a state fruit. So designated by the Idaho Legislature in 2000, it is the huckleberry.

At this time of year, it is not too surprising that the huckleberry is the state fruit. Just about everybody in North Idaho looks forward to huckleberry picking. Huckleberries freeze well and can provide a very healthy addition to your table or to your breakfast smoothie all year long.

There are several species of huckleberries native to Idaho. The most common and most popular is the “Black,” or “Thin-Leaved” huckleberry. Some plant guides, including “Common Plants of the Inland Pacific Northwest,” a guide written by highly respected and widely recognized plant ecologist Dr. Charles Johnson, call the species “big huckleberry.”

This species grows in moist, cool forested environments at mid to upper elevations. Berries are purple to purplish red and are a quarter to half an inch broad, depending upon the year and the site.

The plants grow up to three feet tall and take up to 15 years to reach full maturity. The single, dark purple berries grow on the shoots the plant produced that year.

I found it very interesting that the article referenced the huckleberry rake we sell:

Several stores in the area carry rectangular boxes with stiff wires on the underside that are made just for picking huckleberries. They are intended to make the rather slow process of picking faster and more efficient. Some people can pick moHuckleberry Picking Rakere with the contraption, others say they can pick just as fast by hand.

There are drawbacks to the use of a picker. Unlike berries picked entirely by hand, those picked with a picker need to be separated at home from the leaves and twigs that are inadvertently picked along with the berries. Personally, I think that I pick berries a little faster with a picker, but the time spent separating afterward probably negates any benefits.

When using a picker, many of the small berries will pass between the wires of a picker and remain on the bush. To be more efficient, some of the picker designs need to have the wires bent in a little so they are closer when picking berries that are on the small side.

Some serious “huck-sters” don’t like for other people to use pickers because they believe the pickers can damage the plants. That perspective may or may not be accurate, and I don’t think there is any clear indication either way.

After much research, we have found that, when used correctly, the huckleberry rakes DO NOT damage the plants.  We even had Dr. Dan Barney (Dr. Huckleberry)  test the rakes for us, and agrees with us.

For more information on using huckleberry rakes, check out Malcolm’s Huckleberry Picking Tips Sheet.

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