Personal Stories Archive

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. …


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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Cute Huckleberry Picking Story

Posted August 19, 2012 By sandy

I love these cute little Huckleberry Stories — folks sharing their adventures.

Huckleberries: The Hunt

By Chaya  |   August 15, 2012

Huckleberry Love


For the Love of Huckleberries

I wanted to go huckleberry picking.  Last year,  I was determined to go.  I spent time reading blogs and the Forestry Service pages about what to look for, what types of places to look, and what to do if I saw a bear.

So I called a friend to go with me. …


Hope your huckleberry picking did not end up with mostly leaves like in this picture!!

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What NOT to Do When Picking Huckleberries

Posted August 18, 2012 By sandy

Despite warnings and articles on the web and in print, some folks STILL don’t understand how to pick huckleberries.

The following article is an example:

Fools, Huckleberry Bushes Don’t Mix

Posted by DFO

I pulled into Dairy Queen on Appleway in Coeur d’Alene recently with a buddy for something cool … and instead ended up hot under the collar.

There in the parking lot was a North Idaho pick-up truck, the bed piled with huckleberry bushes that had been sheared off in the forests for their prized fruit. The culprits and a car-load or two of friends were “picking” berries in the DQ parking lot, then taking them inside for an illegal huckleberry parfait.

Shame on you! I wish I’d written down your license plates! You might think you’re making easy work for yourself, but you’re not only breaking the law, you’re giving a bad name to the rest of us who look forward to REAL huckleberry picking, AND you’re killing a truck-load of bushes that likely will never produce again, or at least won’t for decades

READ FULL POST — including comments

Tips for picking huckleberries without damaging the plants

More info on picking huckleberries

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Huckleberry Memories

Posted August 10, 2012 By sandy

Love these ol’ Huckleberry Memories …

Berries: Luscious delicacies, free for the picking

BY BOB ANN BRELAND Between Friends

As children, one of our favorite things to do this time of year was to roam the woods around our house searching for huckleberries. We started before they started to get ripe, because to us, green huckleberries were the best. It was only by circumstance that any survived to get ripe. …


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Huckleberry Picking Story

Posted August 4, 2011 By sandy

Huckleberry hunting

Coeur d’Alene Press

“That is a great smell,” I slowly and deliberately whisper to my wife while deeply engulfing my first whiff of huckleberry as we hike to our secret huckleberry garden. I’m not sure why I whisper. As most huckleberry pickers know, the safe and sane method of huckleberry picking is to make as much noise possible to alert the potential bear searching for the same delicious berry I crave. I suppose and consciously understand that my granddaughter’s, amazed and loudly expressive of every bug, flower and scat on the trail leading to my secret huckleberry sanctuary will scare any creature from within a mile of our hike. …


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Yesterday I had a sweet encounter with a tiny blue pebble with lovely flavor. Little huckleberries are wild blueberries that can be found on rocky hilltops. They like to grow in the well-drained soil of this terrain, and also thrive growing under pine trees, as I assume they like acidic soil like their more cultivated blueberry cousin  ….

Blueberry/Huckleberry Muffins

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbls melted butter
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  •  1 pint blueberries, washed and picked over to eliminate any questionable ones.

Grease 12 large or 18 smaller muffin cups, or line the cups with muffin papers. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine the sugars, eggs sour cream, butter and buttermilk. Toss the blueberries with the flour mixture. Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until just combined. Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full, and bake for about 25 minutes, until a cake tester or straw inserted in the center comes out clean or the muffin feels springy when pressed gently with your finger. 


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How about a Trip down Huckleberry Nostalgia Lane?

Posted June 21, 2009 By Mr. Huckleberry

Sandpoint Idaho 1976

Do you recall your very FIRST huckleberry picking excursion? (Or was this year’s bumper crop be your first time?)

I can (unfortunately!) still recall the mis-adventures of my first wild purple berry safari! Bear with me (excuse the pun) for a brief huckleberry story… the way it REALLY was, without all the romance normally associated with huckleberry picking.

1976 — I was working a college summer job for the Idaho Department of Lands, as a summer forester, and living near Sandpoint, Idaho. “TJ”, a co-worker of mine, and a “local” — well versed in the guarded, secret locations of the best and biggest huckleberries — was my guide.

After what seemed like hours of driving in my ’67 blue-n-white Toyota Land Cruiser, on a narrow, winding, dirt, logging road in the heavily wooded mountains of the Idaho Panhandle (during the hottest part of the summer) — we FINALLY arrived.

The ground was rolling to steep, and huckleberry bushes were everywhere! I got out my gallon bucket, with a paint-can style wire handle, and followed Tom’s lead into the brush. I was ecstatic … while some huckleberry plants were completely barren, many were LOADED with berries. The “good” bushes made up for the shut-outs… my fingers were soon purple.

While picking, I (with little guilt) stole an occasional morsel for my mouth, and envisioned a part-time hobby career, making money on the weekends selling huckleberries at farmer’s markets. The going rate back then was a whopping — and unheard of for “free” berries — $8 to 15 a gallon. But my dream soon diminished.

Huckleberry Picking is HARD WORK!

Within a half hour of steady picking, my expectations were down to hoping to just fill my larder with enough huckleberries to last until the next berry season! Wild huckleberry picking — in spite of the spectacular scenery, fresh air, and the chance to be outdoors — was tough work! And the worst was still to come.

Besides the dust from the late July, hot, dry weather, it was a bad hornet year, and I kicked up three nests in my ambitious pursuit of ever more and bigger berries. Since huckleberries only grow in forested habitats — often logged over — the ground was rough, and I tripped periodically — especially while running from hornets! (Not that I am clumsy anyway, or anything like that…)

From my background, growing up on a farm near Nampa, Idaho, I was more familiar with raspberries. We owned a BIG patch of black caps, and our family also went to the neighbors for U-pick red raspberries… cultivated in tall rows, on FLAT ground.

With huckleberries, the ground was so uneven (usually where the best berries were), it was often tough to stand comfortably in one spot long enough to work a bush — much less find a good spot to set the bucket where it would not fall over — but it did anyway.

I tried tying the bucket to my belt… which worked until the weight of the huckleberries started pulling down my pants, turning things even more unpleasant (especially for anyone watching!!). And to top it all, I was bent over all the time I was picking. Within an hour, my back hurt. It got worse.

The purple on my fingers slowly migrated across my face and other body parts, as I wiped away sweat, mosquitos, ticks, tree branches, and other necessary evils of the great outdoors — along with the occasional call of nature. (Purple tidy whities, anyone?)

Pretty soon, the idea of paying $15 a gallon, and sleeping in on Saturday mornings, did not sound so bad. And I felt a lot more appreciation for past feasts of huckleberry pie, pancakes, jam, and muffins!

The worst part… the part they don’t tell you when you are invited to chase huckleberries, is that picking huckleberries is like seeing how many small marbles you can hold in one hand. (Or perhaps there WAS a reason that their exact words were “chase” huckleberries!) Here is the skinny on the art of handling those little rascals!

If you try and put the berry into your bucket every time you pick one, it takes forever. So while your hand is in the huckleberry bush, you try to collect as many berries as you can before moving your hand, and dropping them into the bucket. Again, I was used to raspberries, which come with jagged edges and even a flat landing area at the bottom of the cap — so you could hold quite a few at any one time, even stack them, before losing any.

Huckleberry Picking Requires Dexterity TOO?!

But HUCKLEBERRIES ARE ROUND (or nearly so)! Using two or three fingers, in collaboration with your thumb, you pick them little suckers off the bush, while your littlest fingers are trying to hold the teaming mass of little fruits in check.

After a few berries, however, as soon as you move one finger to grab a berry off the huckleberry plant, a big juicy huckleberry you already nabbed sneaks through, and hits the ground. And in a forest environment, it’s faster to pick another berry, than dig through the ground level debris to find the one you lost.

But OH, to this day, it just KILLS me to see a big, shiny, purple huckleberry bounce down into the ground level duff, out of sight. What a waste! But in the time I spend bending over to grope amongst the forest litter, and pick it up (if I can even find it), I could pick ten more huckleberries off the bush!

After a while, I developed a rule of thumb: as soon as I was dropping one huckleberry for every one I picked, it was time to transfer the handful of berries into the bucket. (I will not EVEN go into the intracasies of trying to pick with two hands simultaneously!)

After three hours, I’d had enough. I was stiff, tired, sore, dry of mouth, and about to give in and let the growing cloud of mosquitos eat me for a late lunch. I stared at about 3 ½ quarts of huckleberries, and figured I made minimum wage. Back to the Land Cruiser to pull my shirt up for a quick “tick check”, then “Home, James”!

Oooops! Just before I got back to the logging road where we parked, my tired feet caught on a tree root… and all those beautiful, succulent huckleberries turned into a small, purple carpet covering the forest floor. (In deference to your friendly ears, I will not repeat the verbiage I used for the next five minutes. BUT… let’s just say the genetic heritage of huckleberries was put to serious question.)

For the next hour (and I had been so careful to keep leaves and bugs out of the pail of huckleberries!), I scrounged, re-picked, and otherwise scraped berries BACK into the pail. When I was done, my 3 ½ quarts of clean, shiny huckleberries had shrunk to 2 ½ quarts of dirty, little semi-smashed globes, surrounded by ragged bits of forest floor. “More protein,” my (former) friend TJ, assured me, smirking.

After I got home, I spent two hours rinsing and cleaning my huckleberries… a job that should take 20 minutes. This is SOOOO fun, I kept telling myself!

The Pay-Off – Huckleberry Pancakes & Pie!

The next morning, I sprinkled a handful or two of huckleberry delights into some sourdough pancakes, and ate them smothered in melted butter with maple syrup. I still remember the taste of that first bite. Pure heaven! It was (almost) worth the torture of picking those little purple jerks. And it just kept getting better!

The next day, using my mom’s pie crust recipe, I used four cups of berries to make my FIRST huckleberry pie. And I ate the entire thing by myself over the next three days… (OK, OK, it was only 2 days, and included a half gallon of vanilla ice cream.) And I DID NOT SHARE — and I am completely UNapologetic!

I froze the remaining quart or so of huckleberries, in a big baggie… for pancakes, muffins, shakes and ice cream. They looked so good, and tasted so good, I just KNEW I would make it back out and get some more!

But I never made it. Somehow another day of mosquitoes, hornets, dust, and sunburn did not compete with sleeping in; nor with weekend offers of a couple home brews while helping a BBQ grill create culinary delights of another variety. And, of course, my stash of purple gold was gone by Labor Day. As the song says, “STAND UP! IF you ever been there!”

Since then, I have, of course, been out huckleberry picking many times. Rarely do I get enough to last the entire year (I eat a lot of huckleberries!). And yes, I have occasionally resorted to buying some. But with the advent of huckleberry rakes, I have several gallons in my freezer in 2008, and expect to have plenty until the next huckleberry season!

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My First Exposure to Huckleberries

Posted March 12, 2009 By sandy

For me to host a wild huckleberry blog is rather interesting.  I have never really been a big huckleberry fan!!  No really …..

Being raised in California and living in Wisconsin while I was raising my family, I never heard nor tasted a huckleberry.  Berries in my life consisted of raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, blackberries and blackcaps.  We raised berries in our backyard when I was a kid, but most of the berries grew wild in Wisconsin.  A fun field trip for my kids was walking in the woods and picking wild berries!

It wasn’t until the 1990’s, after I had moved to Idaho, that my new husband, Malcolm (nearly a native to Idaho), introduced me to huckleberries.

We took a trip with our two 12-year-old daughters to Elk River, Idaho where huckleberries are a main food staple!  He intended on introducing me ‘properly’ to huckleberries through the famous (or at least famous in our part of the world) Elk River Lodge that served the best huckleberry pie and huckleberry ice cream in the county!

Well, the pie, in my opinion, was pretty good.  They served it a bit warm and the berries were just the right sweetness.  But I didn’t really care for the huckleberries ice cream — I would have preferred vanilla instead.  Too much huckleberries for me!

Even though I did like the huckleberry pie (and still do!) , he had not convinced me that huckleberries were the “purple gold” I had been led to believe.

Next, I will share my first huckleberry picking trip . . . . where things got worse before they got better!!

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