Huckleberry Resources Archive

Native Americans and Huckleberries

Posted August 22, 2017 By sandy

Native Americans enjoy a long history of picking and maintaining many huckleberry stands throughout the northwest region.

The use and preservation of huckleberries is recorded as far back at 1615 when explorer Samuel de Champlain observed Native Americans collecting and drying huckleberries for winter use.  Even the first huckleberry rakes were developed by Native Americans!  (For more history about huckleberries in the Pacific Northwest, you might want to check out the USDA booklet: : A Social History of Wild Huckleberry Harvesting in the Pacific Northwest, also listed on our resource page.)

The tradition continues and is shared in the following article by Eilís O’Neill:

Tribe’s Huckleberry Harvest Brings Fire (or Something Like It) Back to the Forest

… Traditionally, the Tulalip (tribe) ate huckleberries — at home and in ceremonies — brewed tea from the leaves, and used the juice to dye their clothes. Huckleberries were abundant thanks to forest fires, which opened up wetlands and meadows and made space for short, shrubby plants that need the sun—plants like huckleberry bushes.

But, for decades the Forest Service has tried to put out fires as fast as possible, so there isn’t much huckleberry habitat left. That’s why the Tulalip Tribe is working with the Forest Service to recreate open patches in the forest…

Today’s brush-clearing is part of an agreement between the Forest Service and the Tulalip Tribe signed five years ago. The agreement is based on the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, which reserves the Tulalip’s right to hunt and gather in unclaimed lands.

“The tribes see their treaty right as more than just the ability to gather,” says Libby Nelson, who helped negotiate the agreement. The tribe’s members also, she says, “want to be part of the stewardship as they had been for thousands of years.”

The agreement allows the tribe to keep some clear-cut Forest Service land open for huckleberry habitat.

“Logging is kind of doing what prescribed burns and traditional burning used to do to keep certain areas open and from having the conifers overtake these earlier forest stages and meadows,” she explains.

Controlled burns are still on the table for the future — but for now, the tribe is focusing on clearing the land with chainsaws—and teenagers…

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

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Origin of “I’m Your Huckleberry”

Posted January 13, 2017 By sandy

Have you ever pondered where the saying, “I’m your huckleberry” came from and what it actually means?

Maybe you remember the line that was made famous by Val Kilmer in the movie:  “Tombstone”.  But where did he get the phrase?

Victoria Wilcox:  The Art of Story website shares some information on the topic:

I’m Your Huckleberry

Historical Background … From World Wide Words: Quite how I’m your huckleberry came out of all that with the sense of the man for the job isn’t obvious. It seems that the word came to be given as a mark of affection or comradeship to one’s partner or sidekick. There is often an identification of oneself as a willing helper or assistant about it, as here in True to Himself, by Edward Stratemeyer, dated 1900: “ ‘I will pay you for whatever you do for me.’ ‘Then I’m your huckleberry. Who are you and what do you want to know?’ ”. Despite the obvious associations, it doesn’t seem to derive directly from Mark Twain’s books….

Literary Background …  (From Walter Noble Burns 1927 novel,Tombstone: An Iliad of the Southwest”).

“They say you’re the gamest man in the Earp crowd, Doc,” Ringo said. “I don’t need but three feet to do my fighting. Here’s my handkerchief. Take hold.”

Holliday took a quick step toward him.

I’m your huckleberry, Ringo,” replied the cheerful doctor. “That’s just my game.”

Holliday put out a hand and grasped the handkerchief. Both men reached for their six-shooters.

“No, you don’t,” cried Mayor Thomas, springing between them. “You’ll fight no handkerchief duel here. There’s been enough killing in Tombstone, and it’s got to stop.”

That ended it. Holliday went into the saloon. Ringo withdrew across the street.

According to Victoria ….

Huckleberries hold a place in archaic American English slang. The tiny size of the berries led to their use as a way of referring to something small, often affectionately as in the lyrics of Moon River. The phrase “a huckleberry over my persimmon” was used to mean “a bit beyond my abilities”. “I’m your huckleberry” is a way of saying that one is just the right person for a given job. The range of slang meanings of huckleberry in the 19th century was fairly large, also referring to significant persons or nice persons.

So, there you have it!

 

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Huckleberry Products for Your Event?

Posted April 28, 2016 By sandy

During the spring and summer, Tastes of Idaho, our sister site, does a booming business in special orders for the event industry.

Inquiries come from people holding a summer event, getting married, organizing an workshop or meeting, sending customer gifts…. even planning family reunions… They want to get some huckleberry products, favors, gifts for welcome packets, or just create fun memories… and what better way to do it, than with tasteful and tasty goodies?

With our connections to the huckleberry and Idaho gourmet food industries, we can often put together a special bulk order, even with products we don’t show on our website.

Huckleberry Products for your event

Popular items include lip balms (several flavors, including our top selling huckleberry), 2 oz or 4 oz huckleberry jams, SOAPS in a wide variety of scents and configurations, popcorn, honey, and all kinds of confections.

Oh, and did I mention custom labels are available on many items?? Not every product is available this way with your own logo, company name, or event particulars. But depending on volume, and a small graphics charge, you would be surprised what we can come up with!

Put your special summer (or other event) date and information on your own private label, as a memory maker. Consider the impact of your company name on a huckleberry goodie that will REALLY stand out at a trade show or conference.

Oh, and depending on volume, we can often do a 15% or more discount over regular retail prices!

Give us a holler, and let us do come concierge shopping for you.

Do remember that logistics for these larger orders do require a bit of extra time, ESPECIALLY if you want a custom label.

Last year, we shipped out thousands of cool huckleberry items, including jams, lip balms, soaps, and candy for wedding favors, customer gifts, and conference welcome packs.

Are you associated with an upcoming conference or other event in the near future, that I can help you make even more memorable??

Give me a quick call, and let’s see what we can find and create for you!

Sandy & Malcolm Dell
Tastes of Idaho
888-231-1699

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Everything You Want to Know about Huckleberries

Posted April 22, 2016 By sandy

As you know, we have tons of information about huckleberries on this site — especially about the huckleberries grown in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest region. But we may not have EVERYTHING you want to know about huckleberries!

But, believe it or not, there is some interesting information about huckleberrEverything you want to know about huckleberriesy on Wikipedia

Following is some information from their huckleberry listing:

The name ‘huckleberry’ is a North American variation of the English dialectal name variously called ‘hurtleberry’ or ‘whortleberry’ /ˈwɜːrtəlˌbɛrɪ/ for the bilberry. In North America the name was applied to numerous plant variations all bearing small berries with colors that may be red, blue or black. It is the common name for various Gaylussacia species, and some Vaccinium species, such as Vaccinium parvifolium, the red huckleberry, and is also applied to other Vaccinium species which may also be called blueberries depending upon local custom, as in New England and parts of Appalachia.

The ‘garden huckleberry’ (Solanum scabrum) is not a true huckleberry, but is instead a member of the nightshade family.

Here is the info about our local huckleberries:

From coastal Central California to southern Washington and British Columbia, the red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) is found in the maritime-influenced plant community. In the Pacific Northwest and mountains of Montana and Idaho, this huckleberry species and several others, such as the black Vaccinium huckleberry (V. membranaceum) and blue (Cascade) huckleberry (V. deliciosum), grow in various habitats, such as mid-alpine regions up to 11,500 feet elevation, mountain slopes, forests or lake basins. The plant grows best in damp, acidic soil having volcanic origin, attaining under optimal conditions heights of 1.5 to 2 m (4.9 to 6.6 ft), usually ripening in mid-to-late summer or later at high elevations.

I found it very interesting that many of the quotes in this Wikipedia article are from Dr. Dan Barney, who previously, ran the U of I Research Center in Sandpoint where he worked on several huckleberry projects!

 

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What are Mummified Huckleberries?

Posted February 25, 2016 By sandy

A reader recently posted the following question on our website concerning mummified huckleberries:

… We have many red huckleberry and evergreen huckleberry bushes in our woods (in Washington).  I have noticed mummies in the e.h. plants–a local blueberry farmer expressed surprise that mummification had migrated to the wild.  Do you know if that is common, or something new?

I was not familar with mummified huckleberries, so I contacted Dr. Dan Barney who sent the following reply:

Mummy berry is caused by a fungal pathogen known as Monilinia urnula. This fungus attacks domestic blueberries and also their closely related western huckleberry and bilberry cousins. Please see Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.)-Mummy Berry | Pacific Northwest Plant Disease Handbook

Mummified huckleberries

Red arrow points to mummified fruit of black huckleberry, Vaccinium membranaceum. Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, British Columbia.

The pathogen is harmless to humans and nonmummified fruit can be harvested and used. Resistance to the disease varies between different genotypes (genetically distinct plants within the same species), and temperature and humidity play huge roles in whether the berries become infected. In warm, dry years, the disease may be nearly absent in a given huckleberry population, but very severe in the same population during a wet year. In my huckleberry and bilberry breeding program, this is one of the diseases that I screen for in choosing parent plants, in an attempt to select for resistance.

Thanks Dr. Barney for your explanation and references to the mummified huckleberries.

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Huckleberry Forecast from Montana

Posted June 24, 2015 By sandy

After the bumper crop of huckleberries last season, folk are wondering about this year’s huckleberry forecast.

Here is one researcher’s perspective on the Glacier National Park huckleberries:

WEST GLACIER – Tabitha Graves can’t say this will be a bad year for huckleberries, even Huckleberry forecast from Montana though four of the five sites she is monitoring in the West Glacier area show berry production is down 75 percent to 95 percent from last year.

But the fifth is showing the same number of berries as 2014, when a bumper crop was Huckleberry forecast in Montanaproduced after a wet, cool spring.

And Graves, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, doesn’t yet know what the huckleberry crop at higher elevations – where bushes are just popping out from under snow – will be like this summer.

“It could still be a great year if the berries at the higher elevations grow,” Graves says….

The five sites being monitored in the area are among a dozen in the park. Here, the elevation is close to 3,200 feet, but Graves also has sites as high as approximately 6,500 feet – one near Sperry Chalet, where mountain peaks block sunlight for much of the day, and another on (how could she not) Huckleberry Mountain, which is in the open and exposed to much sunlight.

“Some years, the crop will be good in one place and bad in others,” Graves says. Her goal is to figure out why…

To aid the research, Graves has set up remote cameras at all 12 sites that snap pictures, from a distance of 18 inches, of huckleberry bushes four to five times a day throughout the growing season.

She can see them when they’re budding, see them when they’re flowering, see them at the “saucer” stage (so called because “they look like flying saucers,” Graves explains), see them when they resemble tulips, see them when the berries are green, see them when they’re ripe…

The pilot project began last year during the bumper crop, which is why Graves knows that this year, one of her sites has just 5 percent of the berries that were produced last year, three more have just 25 percent, and one is humming along at last year’s rate.

READ FULL STORY

At this point, it all remains to be seen what happens here and elsewhere with the huckleberry crop.

If anyone has any further information, please share with us.

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History of Huckleberries

Posted June 10, 2015 By sandy

If you do your research, you can find references to the huckleberry back as far as the 17th century.

In the article, Huckleberries – History of Huckleberries, I found the following information: 

Evidence has been found the the huckleberry actually got its name from a simple mistake. Early American colonist, upon encountering the native American berry, misidentified it as the European blueberry known as the “hurtleberry,” by which name it was called until around 1670 it was corrupted to become know as the “huckleberry.”

Lewis and Clark encountered huckleberries and talked about them in their journals:

In the Journals of Lewis and Clark, they wrote of the tribes west of the Rocky Mountains using dried berries extensively in 1806 and 1806. Captain Meriwether Lewis on reaching the Shoshone Tribe (also known as the Snake Nation, occupied areas both east and west of the Rocky Mountains) and the Great Divide, 15 August 1805:

“This morning I arose very early and as hungry as a wolf. I had eaten nothing yesterday except one scant meal of the flour and berries, except the dried cakes of berries, which did not appear to satisfy my appetite as they appeared to do those of my Indian friends. I found on inquire of McNeal that we had only about two pounds of flour remaining. This I directed him to divide into two equal parts and to cook the one half this morning in a kind of pudding with the berries as he had done yesterday, and reserve the balance for the evening. On this new-fashioned pudding four of us breakfasted, giving a pretty good allowance also to the chief, who declared it the best thing he had tasted for a long time. . .”

Native Americans were very familiar with the huckleberry:

Northwest tribes made special combs of wood or salmon backbones to strip huckleberries off the bushes. They dried the berries in the sun or smoked them and then mashed them into cakes and wrapped these in leaves or bark for storage.

Huckleberries became part of the culture in the early 1900s:

Between 1900 to 1925 families took working vacations where they traveled into the mountains to pick huckleberry (known as hucks) for the winter. During the 1930s through the 1940s, large camps were set in northern Montana where the fire of 1910 had burned. NOTE: Forest fires can enhance huckleberry habitat by allowing more light onto the forest floor. Also, fires release more nutrients into the soil, producing ashy soils upon which huckleberries thrive. The picking was so great that much of western Montana’s population converged on this area and set up huckleberry camps. The Native Americans on one side of the road, with as many as five hundred tipi lodges, and on the other side of the road would be the encampments of other Montanans. The camps might last a few days, a week, or as much as two months, depending on the crop and the inclinations of the family. It was said the big huckleberry camps had a boomtown atmosphere, much like the gold mining towns of the West. Those years produced boxcar-loads of huckleberries.

Huckleberry outings not only provided settlers with easily available nutritious, but also offered young people a legitimate courting opportunity. Moreover, huckleberry gathering provided a unique opportunity for white settlers to interact with local tribes.

The following is from Montana Historical Society interview transcript with Edna G. Cox McCann on an early settler, Edna McCann of Trout Creek, Montanta:

“And then huckleberry season we always would put in, well, we’d make a kind of picnic out of it. We’d take three or four days, get enough huckleberries for winter and make it kind of a picnic out of it too . . . We’d go to Silver Butte, that was a good place for huckleberries then or go up Trout Creek, either place. You know, the Indians that’d come down from the (Flathead) Reservation, there’d be a whole big bunch of them’d come at a time and camp for a week. Up on silver butte picking huckleberries. I always talked to ’em. Always did and i always got along good with them. Always got along good – some of them I would even recognize when they’d come back the next year . . . They had their favorite spots and they camped and not one every bothered anyone else, but the mountains were full of them . . . and that’s something you never see anymore. I don’t know if they even come down after huckleberries anymore. I never see ’em.”History of Huckleberries

 

If you are interested in more information on the history of huckleberries, you might want to check out this resource:  http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/22152

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Do Huckleberry Rakes Kill or Damage Plants?

Posted April 6, 2015 By sandy

Frequently, we receive inquires as to the safety of using rakes to pick huckleberries.  Over the years, we have responded to comments with the facts about the issue.

Last week, we received the following comment from Valerie:

“How rude! When you use the rake you are not telling rakers they are killing the bush.”

Thank you, Valerie, for bringing up a common misconception (even an “urban myth”) about huckleberry picking rakes. It ALWAYS comes from those who’ve never used them, or even seen theA social history of wild huckleberry harvesting in the Pacific Northwestm used.

The blueberry industry has been using rakes to pick commercial berries for several decades, maybe even a century.

Native Americans traditionally harvested huckleberries using rakes carved from wood, or made from the backbone of a salmon or steelhead together with the rib cage on one side.

No one would be using rakes if they even damaged the plants, much less killed them.
The teeth on a huckleberry raking tools are typically set with a 3/16 inch gap. This allows the tiny twigs (huckleberries only grow on the current years growth) to pass through unharmed, but will pop off all but the tiniest berries.

While it is theoretically possible to damage a huckleberry plant with a rake, if misused (after all, you can easily kill someone with a screwdriver, which is not the intended use), doing so would be counter productive. The aggressiveness required to damage a bush would put so much trash into your bucket, that the berries would not be worth trying to pick out of the mess.

You will get a few more leaves with a rake that by hand picking. This is because the leaves huckleberry picking rakeare nearing their traditional leaf fall which occurs every autumn, and using a rake is less selective than hand picking (and bumps the twiglets a bit more). But you get leaves, even with handpicking… and for the same reason.

I guess that when people hear the term “rake” it SOUNDS like a tool that you would SCRAPE against the branches. However, this is far from the case. Berry picking tools are designed to minimize contact with the plant itself, while capturing as many berries as possible.

Which is why even the most environmentally conscious huckleberry lover, probably owns a rake or two… you can easily pick 3x as many berries with the same investment of time and gas into the woods. And if the berries are thick, you can get 10X the berries in the same amount of effort.

See more at the following websites:

And thanks, Valerie, for your comment! We appreciate the opportunity to clear up this common misconception.

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Huckleberries in North Idaho

Posted February 5, 2015 By sandy

Looking for huckleberries in north Idaho?

Coeur d Alene is a famous resort town, known for its fine dining, beautiful lake Coeur d Alene and it’s beaches, and HUCKLEBERRIES!

 

But, of course, you won’t find any huckleberries to pick this time of the year!  But, the Guide to North Idaho has a listing of wonderful places to experience huckleberries!

 

If you’re not inclined to compete with the bears and birds for Idaho’s official state fruit, there are multiple other ways to enjoy huckleberries:

  • Baskin Robbins in Coeur d’Alene features dozens of toppings including fresh huckleberries.
  • Paul Bunyon Burgers has been a local favorite since 1952. What do the locals love about Paul Bunyon in the summertime? Huckleberry milkshakes!
  • Sargent’s on Government Way in Hayden not only serves up the best steaks in town, but also the best huckleberry pie!
  • Huckleberry topped salads and cheesecake are a must try at 315 Martinis, Tapas and Dinner at the Greenbriar Inn.

Huckleberries are the star each August when the Huckleberry / Heritage Festival takes place in Wallace the 3rd weekend. Besides a bake-off and Huckleberry pancake breakfast, vendors have huckleberry goods along with other arts and crafts. There’s also live music, a fun run, downtown bicycle race and a bicycle hillclimb to the top of Dobson Pass.

If you are inclined to visit Coeur d Alene to pick huckleberries …

By mid-June, berries on south facing lower slopes are ripe. Good picking is as late as October on north slopes. Abundant huckleberry picking spots are available throughout North Idaho. Best picking is between late July and early August. Visit parksandrecreation.idaho.gov or contact the Priest Lake Ranger District, (208)443-2512  www.fs.fed.us/ipnf/priestlake

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Huckleberries on Pinterest

Posted December 4, 2014 By sandy

Pinterest is newer to the internet than our Wild Huckleberry website.  Despite that, numerous huckleberry sites and Pinterest boards have cropped up since then and share some wonderful recipes.

Over the last several months, we have liked a few Pinterest pages on huckleberries that are very interesting.

But, first, before I share what I found, let me ask you to check out our Huckleberries on Pinterest page:

Huckleberries!

Huckleberries on Pinterest

Here are some of the Pinterest board I found that feature huckleberries and huckleberry recipes (And yes, I know they mostly have the same name — misspellings and all — but here they are):

If you have a huckleberry Pinterest board and it is not listed here, please share in the comments below!

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