Personal Stories Archive

Huckleberry Picking in the Cascades

Posted September 13, 2017 By sandy

Huckleberry season in the Rocky Mountain region is most over for this year, but some folks are still picking in the Cascades in Oregon.

I ran across this delightful picking story that I want to share with you by John Rezell, Editor, OutdoorsNW :

Huckleberry Picking in the Cascades

Recipe for Huckleberry Bliss

We’ve ventured high into the Cascades in search of August’s bounty of huckleberries, but early signs along the trail are spotty at best. Someone or something appears to have cleaned up….

About three miles up the trail the picking pace begins to accelerate as single dark purple huckleberries pop into view. At first it’s a lone berry or two that appear ripe on a bush. Then, suddenly, a whole bush explodes with ripe berries lighting up against the green leaves like fireworks….

I can’t describe the fulfillment that comes with plucking tiny berries from a bush, nor the eruption of taste buds that follows the burst of small pea-sized berry crunched between my teeth….

When we move to the next section I’m amazed at how quickly my brain zeroes in on huckleberries as our primary target. A single berry against the forest’s sea of green appears to pop out as if a lone spotlight casts upon it in a dark theater.

The rest of the forest blends into an idyllic background. I can almost hear a choir strike a heavenly chord on cue. Ahhhhh!!!…

READ THE FULL STORY

 

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More Huckleberry Picking Reports

Posted August 14, 2017 By sandy

Some interesting stories from huckleberry pickers around the region:

More Huckleberry Picking Reports

I’m Your Huckleberry

Huckleberries may quite possibly be the best thing about summer in McCall. These round purple berries have a tart kick that make them the perfect addition to pies, ice cream, pancakes, syrup and more. …

Finding a bountiful huckleberry patch can require a bit of adventure. Start by getting to the right elevation (between 4,000 and 6,000 feet). Forest Service and old logging roads are a great way to access these high country areas. Huckleberry shrubs range in size from 2 feet to 6 feet and some of the best patches can be found in shaded areas. The leaves of a huckleberry bush are deep green with thin stems while the berries are small and range from deep red to purple to blue-black. Huckleberries typically ripen between July and September in the McCall area.

Check out the full story for a detailed list of picking tips

 

Personal Foodstory: Tart, sweet and wild, huckleberries represent this family of foraging jokesters

… If you’ve ever been huckleberry picking, you know that to reach even the halfgallon mark takes approximately an eternity. …

Huckleberrying requires patience, grit and awkward crouching. Swatting mosquitos and sweating in the summer heat, you must crawl through mountainous underbrush as scraggly branches and sticky spider webs collide with your face, only to pluck four meager berries from an entire bush.

With stained fingers and dirty jeans, you remind yourself that: Every. Berry. Counts.

If you drop one berry, you desperately hunt it down and place the precious fruit back in your picking container. Otherwise your hard labor was wasted…

Read the rest of this humorous story

 

Experts say this is the best season for huckleberry picking in years

One month in to huckleberry picking season, with up to 100 pickers each weekend, Nathan May with Washington State Parks said, “there’s still tons of huckleberries to be picked.” …

Rangers and pickers are even finding huckleberries pop up in places they never been found before….you just may have to go off the beaten path to find them.

The only place pickers haven’t had much luck is in areas with direct sunlight. as the extreme heat has hurt the bushes.

Kathy Grier has gone huckleberry picking twice already this season. Last weekend she headed to higher elevations and says she could sit on the ground and fill a quarter of a bag easily. …

More on this story

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Huckleberries are not only enjoyed by avid pickers, but they are a major source of food for the grizzly bear.

According to the Daily Inter Lake website, 17-year old Hunter Dana found out how dangerous bears can be during his recent huckleberry picking expedition.

Berry picker has harrowing grizzly bear encounter

… Dana, of Columbia Falls, hiked up to his family’s usual huckleberry-picking spot near Hungry Horse and sat down to pick. Dana’s mother, Jennifer Wheat-Dana, said that her son reported “something didn’t feel right.”

One of Dana’s empty gallon jugs clanked against another jug and the sow came flying out of the woods.

“She kept coming after him,” Wheat-Dana said. “He would spray her, get away, and she was coming again. She followed him clear around the lake.”

At one point, the sow charged Dana, he sprayed her, and her nail caught his pant leg and tripped him. The spray had subdued her enough for him to get up and get moving, she said.

Dana is scratched from the underbrush and hit the ground hard but is uninjured. He lost his voice from screaming at the bear.

Dana’s father was on the phone with him during the attack, and simultaneously called 911 with a co-worker’s phone.

When Wheat-Dana arrived, Flathead County Sheriff’s deputies and a game warden had already arrived. Dana was picked up at the south end of the lake…

NBC Montana also picked up the story and included a video interview with Dana.  Check it out here: Kalispell teenager’s bear scare serves as a reminder. 

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More Huckleberry Stories

Posted August 14, 2014 By sandy

With the abundance of huckleberries this year, also comes an abundance of huckleberry stories.  Sharing personal stories — and even poems — about this beloved berry is fun and entertaining to huckleberry lovers everywhere.

Wine Forest h

Greg Toffefson, writer for the Missoulian starts out with his story:

Huck fever brings memories of harvest queen

One morning last week, I found myself sitting in the middle of a huckleberry patch somewhere in the Swan Range slowly filling a plastic bucket with juicy purple berries. In case you aren’t tuned in to the berry situation, this is a bumper crop year. Every picking expedition is an extravaganza of excess. The picking is easy. All around me that morning, bushes hung heavy with berries.

Nearby, my brother Steve, who I could locate in the undergrowth only because his floppy hat was visible above the bushes, was filling his own bucket. Just down the slope a ways, my brother Val, my niece Jenny and her daughter Iris were all engrossed in gathering berries.

I could not help thinking about the fact that such activities are the stuff that links generations of us together, and that thought prompted me when I got home to resurrect the first column I ever wrote about huckleberries a quarter-century ago. Here is what I had to say …

About this time every year a purple haze settles over western Montana. Unless you or someone close to you is directly affected, you may not even notice. If you aren’t oblivious to it, you probably know it’s a little understood phenomenon. The physiological effects are unknown. They have never been studied. And the possible psychological implications, though they sometimes seem overwhelming, are only conjecture.

I’m talking about the dreaded HUCKLEBERRY FEVER….

CUTE STORY CONTINUES HERE

Theresa Hupp shares the next story on her blog:

A Picture I Wish I Had: A Baby and Huckleberries


A friend of mine in Washington State recently posted a picture of huckleberries she had picked. Now those of you who don’t live in the West may not even know what huckleberries are. You’ve heard of Huckleberry Finn, but did you ever wonder where the Huckleberry in his name came from?

(Actually, a little research indicates that some huckleberry varieties grow in the East also, but I will take a parochial attitude in this post and tell you that they can’t possibly be as good as western huckleberries.)

Huckleberries look like blueberries, but are smaller. And sweeter, in my opinion. And purple through and through. They are highly sought after by discerning humans and bears.

Huckleberries have not been domesticated, but have been picked in the wild from time immemorial until today. They are rampant in the hills around Coeur d’Alene Lake in Idaho.

READ WHAT HAPPENED TO HER BABY BROTHER IN THE YELLOW WINDBREAKER

Last, but not least, is an story by Rick Landers with the Spokesman Review sharing several huckleberry haikus:

Berry-picking readers enjoy penning purple prose

…On a whim, I asked readers if a forest festooned with an incredible profusion of berries could inspire literary achievement in addition to overactive salivary glands. Dozens responded.

Readers of the Spokesman-Review turned out to be well-versed in the art of huckleberry picking. It’s in our blood, not just stained on our fingers and tongues.

I’ve often been haunted by three-line, five-seven-five-syllable haikus that pop into my mind while huckleberry picking, especially when I’ve been with my kids …

Living the moment

The bucket half full

betrayed by a purple tongue

She bears little fruit…

ENJOY MORE HUCKLEBERY HAIKUS HERE

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Huckleberry Picking 2014!!

Posted August 5, 2014 By sandy

With the ‘bonkers’ huckleberry season, picking stories are becoming as abundant as the berries.  Huckleberry picking is a fun adventure for outdoor enthusiasts and most love to share their stories — but not their private picking spot or their precious huckleberry stash!!

Huckleberries 2 rd

Two stories in particular stood out — sharing here:

Huckleberry Heaven

Meet the people who hunt down the elusive Northwest treat

…When you move to or visit the Inland Northwest, you are quickly initiated into huckleberry culture. From drive-throughs to fine dining, huckleberries feature prominently on menus in the summer months. The variety of huckleberry products available year-round at country markets and groceries is vast, if not a little obsessive. Tea, taffy, barbecue sauce, gummy candy, jams, jellies, syrups, all varieties of baked goods and even lip balm line shelves, providing huckleberry fans with accessibility to the popular and distinctively local berry any time of year.

Becoming a huckleberry devotee takes little effort. The perfume and flavor of huckleberries are like no other, and the enigmatic nature of the shrubs — they require specific soil conditions, temperatures and elevations to thrive — give them a certain mythical status. Late spring freezes can destroy entire huckleberry stands, and domesticating the bush has been virtually impossible….

READ THE FULL STORY

Our second story is really cute — featuring a two-year old and many pictures!  I especially liked the picture of their metal picker!

Huckleberries!

It’s huckleberry season in the Kootenays! Add in a two-year-old, and the fun multiplies. Handling the supply of honey buckets on the trip up the mountain in the backseat of Grampa’s truck occupied her endlessly!

READ THE FULL STORY

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With the wonderful huckleberry season we are experiencing in the Rocky Mountain region, articles about huckleberries are cropping up almost daily!

The Montana Homestead website posted a great article on foraging, cleaning and preserving huckleberries that is a wonderful guide for newbies and experienced pickers.

Here are some of the highlights from the article:

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Foraging and Preserving Huckleberries

Foraging For Huckleberries

In the past, we  just picked huckleberries by hand. We used these homemade berry picking buckets that worked great. They are made out of plastic one gallon juice or vinegar containers cut off at the top. We made a slit in the plastic sides and tied a long piece of hemp cord to each side to create a strap. These homemade berry picking buckets work great to free up both hands for picking….

Cleaning Huckleberries

To clean the huckleberries, I pour them into a large bowl and cover them with water. The leaves and stems float to the top. This makes it easy to scoop them off the top with my hands and put them in the pile to be composted. Once the leaves and sticks have been removed from the water, look for any green unripe berries to remove. …

Preserving Huckleberries

The easiest way to preserve huckleberries is to freeze them. I’ve tried a couple different techniques over the years and found the simple easy way has worked the best. …

…after I clean the huckleberries and let them dry in the colander, I pack them directly into zip close plastic bags. I pack two cups in each bag and use the DIY method of vacuum sealing I mentioned in this post. Packing the huckleberries into bags this way without pre-freezing them on a cookie sheet is quick and easy. We never have issues with the huckleberries sticking together doing it this way. We also don’t have any issues with the huckleberries getting freezer burnt since we let them dry out before being packed into bags.

 READ THE FULL ARTICLE

 

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Mining Huckleberries?

Posted July 26, 2014 By sandy

The Spokesman Review is entertaining us with another interesting article on huckleberry picking — or mining huckleberries!  And this guy has obviously been there ….

800px-Vaccinium_membranaceum_Fruit

Mining for purple: Huckleberry pickers wear stains with pride

By Alan Liere

…Huckleberry stains are among the worst ever, soaking through jeans and even underwear, but they are an indication of a successful day picking. These butt stains are not as impressive as a tattoo of a three-headed, fire-breathing serpent wrapped around a sailing ship, of course, but they are worn proudly and last about a week. On bare skin, they create an interesting purple pattern that looks like a massive hematoma.

Some folks count their money. Others count their huckleberries. Those who do not pick huckleberries have no idea what is involved. Otherwise intelligent, reasonable folks have said to me, “You’re going huckleberry picking? I just love huckleberries! Pick me enough for a couple pies.”

“A couple” huckleberry pies take a half gallon of huckleberries. That’s two hours (in a great year) of sitting in a patch or bending over low bushes on a side hill in the woods, sweating, swatting back flies, and listening to the depressingly slow “plink” of a small purple berry hitting the bottom of a metal bucket. Pick you enough for a couple pies, indeed! And while I’m at it, why don’t I pick you up a couple nice ribeye and a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon? ….

READ THE REST OF THIS HUMOROUS STORY

Huckleberry zucchini pie, anyone???

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Harvey, the Huckleberry, Speaks Out on Abuse

Posted March 26, 2014 By sandy

Hi, my name is Harvey. I’m a wild huckleberry.

This is my story.

I was raised, with my siblings, in the beautiful, for­ested mountains of rural Idaho, Huckleberry bushmuch like where you probably live.

Sure, we were not the largest huckleberries on the hill — maybe not even the sweetest — but we lived in harmony with the mosquitoes, and occasionally shared a meal with a black bear or jay.

One day, when I was a teenager, and nearing the prime of my life, a group of purple-fingered bandits came through our community patch, and kidnapped us — my entire family, and ALL of my kinfolk! I think only my sister Henrietta was spared, by jumping from a fumble-fingered bandit, then hiding in the grass.

We were then dumped, unceremoniously, into a large, stifling box, moved by car to a holding facility, and nearly drowned in ice water, where we were stripped of our green, leafy wardrobe. Then they threw us into tiny cells in a facility with NO HEATING or oxygen! I choked and shivered for DAYS.

Then they started coming to get us… slowly at first, then in buckets.

The first tale of abuse, came from smothering in bat­ter, and dropping onto hot oil, while those heartless bandits laughed and cheered in anticipation of our de­mise.

Then, victims were rolled in sweet white sand, and BOILED, before dislocation to glass cells. Others were forced to desegregate, and share living quarters with granola, flour, popcorn, apples, jalapenos, honey, ginger, poppyseeds, fruit juices, and even… our poor tasteless cousin, the blueberry! Gasp!

Some of my closest cousins were boiled in acid, and labeled as lemonade or dressing. Many of us were pulverized, and smashed into confections. I still have nightmares of those grinning little bug-eyed bandits with purple slobber drooling off their chins, while chew­ing on my friends, and making horrifying “ummm” sounds.

On my dad’s side of the family, many were suffo­cated in various colors of chocolate, and wrapped in a cold, aluminum blankets. Some were CAFFEINATED, in tea or coffee, and forced to lay awake for weeks.

This can’t continue… I MUST find a way to escape.

Oh no… MY CELL is moving now. Maybe this is it, my time to get away. Yes, we are heading toward the door. The bandit is leaning over and unzipping our cell, YES… but wait, no – what is that boiling liquid? I’m falling—

Oh, oh! Looks like Harvey got himself into a jam. (Excuse the pun.) Hopefully, he will not be back, to share his tale of abuse in someone’s digestive tract.

In the meantime, TASTES OF IDAHO – where all the huckleberry goodies Harvey mentioned can be found – would like to re-assure you that, in spite of the allegations, Harvey and his family were treated humanely. All berries used in prod­ucts at TASTES OF IDAHO are certified natural, free range, fair trade, cage free, no spray, sus­tainably harvested, no animal testing (except for bears), and healthy (as long as you don’t read the ingredients labels!)

To enjoy the further adventures of Harvey, please stop by our store www.TastesofIdaho.com and turn wild huckleberries into a key part of your gift giving and get-togethers. After all, wild huckleberries are the IDAHO STATE FRUIT. Don’t get to Christmas without huckleberries in your holiday!

 

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Huckleberries Picking in Oregon

Posted September 7, 2012 By sandy

Huckleberry season here in Idaho/Montana is just about over, but from what I have been hearing on the web, it is in full swing in Oregon and northern California.

Check out the post by Melissa Trainer who is ….

Going Wild for Huckleberries in the Pacific Northwest

If you are interested in gathering wild huckleberries throughout the Pacific Northwest (including Alaska, Montana and Idaho) this August and September, here are a few tips and resources for doing so:

Huckleberries

Where to find them: Huckleberries can be found in Northwest coastal and subalpine areas with abundant sunshine (blueberries, a closely related plant, has a much wider distribution in North America). Many clearcut areas have berries, but note that many prime locations get picked quickly. Ask a forest or park ranger for suggestions on trails where you can find them, or use the resources below.

When to pick them: Huckleberries reach their peak in mid-August and September.

Picking tips: Both birds and bears love to gorge on these berries, too. So, make noise and be bear aware while foraging and picking. Don’t overpick; leave plenty behind for the local wildlife.

Picture and article courtesy of REI and Melissa Trainer!

(Make sure to check out Melissa’s huckleberry pancakes!)

 

 

 

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Homemade Huckleberry Rake and Preserves Story

Posted August 20, 2012 By sandy

I love the information and ingenuity of this gal.  Not only does she share some huckleberry preserving methods, she talks about two huckleberry rakes she made.

After all was said and done, she ended up buying one of our rakes (NOTE:  She mentioned that she bought her rake from Amazon.  Because we were shorted rakes this season, we did not offer them on Amazon.  You can still buy them on our Huckleberry Rake website!)

Day 226: Do-it-yourself Huckleberry Rake

…Northwest tribal folk dried huckleberries in large cakes and stacked the cakes until ready to use. I picture great purple wheels, like towers of cheese, stacked to the ceiling in corners of longhouses. When berries where needed, a chunk of a wheel was broken off and reconstituted in water. I’ve also seen recommendations for mashing the berries and spreading them out across a screen to dry in the sun. When the mash is dry, it can be crumbled and sealed in storage containers.  I’ll try this option, as I don’t have a free corner to stack cakes of berries. My least favorite preservation discovery is to store the berries in bacon grease or used cooking oil. Yuck! Now that just sounds nasty, but not when considering the huckleberry’s traditional use as fish bait. I never really thought of the huckleberry as fish bait, but it makes perfect sense. It’s the exact right bite for a #8 trout hook. …

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Huckleberry Rakes can also be found on our Tastes of Idaho site where we still have a few “Child’s” Huckleberry Rakes as well as the standard Huckleberry Rake (pictured above) available!

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