Picking Wild Huckleberries Archive

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 in Washington

Posted August 9, 2014 By sandy

The Billingham Heald says “It’s time to head to mountains to pick huckleberries”!

Huckleberry picking in Washington is beginning!!  Good news for pickers on the west side of the Rocky Mountain region.

Huckleberry Bushi

The article goes on to explain the following:

Berries are ripe at lower elevations and ready for recreational picking and starting to ripen at higher elevations.

Huckleberries are generally found above 3,000 feet of elevation. You typically find huckleberry bushes on slopes with sunshine and plenty of water. Experts recommend looking for open areas such as older clear cuts and burned areas. Look for plants like beargrass, serviceberry, hemlock and Pacific silver fir. They are “indicator species, “plants likely to be near huckleberries.

The typical huckleberry shrub is low and erect, standing 1-5 feet tall. The leaves are short, elliptical and alternative on the stems. Berries are ripe for picking when they are plump and dark purple. The leaves turn bright red before being shed later in the fall. …

The hot weather this summer has had some effect on berries. But the plentiful rain in June and in the last couple of weeks has been beneficial.

“Picking prospects this year appear mixed. Some usually productive areas have mediocre crops this year. The rest seem about normal,” said Jon Nakae, south zone silviculturist for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/08/09/3785922/its-time-to-head-to-mountains.html#storylink=cpy

If you are interested in picking in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest or the Mount Rainier National Park area, the article has some excellent tips on where to find huckleberries!

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/08/09/3785922/its-time-to-head-to-mountains.html#storylink=cpy
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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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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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All About Huckleberries

Posted September 26, 2013 By sandy

Huckleberry season is definitely winning down — it appears to have been a good year for huckleberries and those picking them in the wilds!

But it is always time to learn more about huckleberries.

I found this excellent article the other day and wanted to share it with you:

Huckleberries

Wine Forest huckleberries

Vaccininum membranceum/ Globare (complex)’ V. ovatum; Gaylussacia species

The delightful word huckleberry, means one kind of berry in Massachusetts, another kind in Missouri, another in Montana, and yet another at America’s edge along the Mendocino coast. This same charming name is used for at least six species of purple berries. Like the orthodox devotion to one’s regional BBQ, every region knows that their type of huckleberry is superior. I personally adore our Pacific coastal evergreen huckleberries, V. ovatum, while my friends in Montana think I’m crazy to like those tiny tart berry ball compared to their big fat sweet berries.

The article talks further about the huckleberries in three distinct regions:

  • “Mountain” Huckleberry
  • Coastal Evergreen Huckleberry
  • Eastern Huckleberry

Also, there is a section on the following:

  1. Cleaning
  2. Harvesting
  3. Seasonality
  4. Preservation
  5. Cooking
  6. Storage

Check out the complete article

 

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History of Huckleberries

Posted September 4, 2013 By sandy

Most of us love huckleberries — but do you know the History of Huckleberries?

Always looking for some good huckleberry articles to feature here, I found the following article from the What’s Cooking America’s website.

Here are some interesting facts from the article:

100_1880

Did You Know? 

*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.”

*Often confused with the blueberry due to its close resemblance, huckleberries are a wild blue-black berry. Although very similar in taste, the big difference is the seeds within the huckleberry that give it a crunchy texture when fresh and its thicker skin. The flavor is a little more tart than blueberries, with an intense blueberry flavor.

*Huckleberries have been a staple of life for Northwest and Rocky Mountain Native American tribes for thousands of years. 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.

*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.

READ FULL ARTICLE

And while you are on the site, make sure to click on the link to access her huckleberry pie recipe!

 

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Huckleberry Pickers Not Allowed in Some Areas!

Posted August 29, 2013 By sandy

As you know, we sell huckleberry picking rakes.  Rakes can increase your yield 4 to 10 times in the same amount of time as picking by hand.  Our rakes, in particular, are light weight and easy to use.

(If you want more info on our huckleberry rakes, check out our website, Huckleberry Rake. where you will find videos, pictures and written instructions.)

But too much mis-information floats around the web and elsewhere about huckleberry picking rakes.  Rather than list all the reasons why huckleberry rakes are safe, I have prepared a mini-website that addresses those issues here:  Huckleberry Picking Tool Myths.

Dr. Barney at Elk River, Idaho

Over the years, we have worked with Dr. Dan Barney — affectionately known as Dr. Huckleberry — who was the leading expert on huckleberries at the University of Idaho.  He not only tested our rakes, he also endorsed them (info on the site noted above).  Unfortunately, the UI closed his huckleberry project in Sandpoint a few years ago and he is else doing other plant related research.

Then only location we are aware of that bans the use of huckleberry picking rakes is the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington.  (There has been a report that they are also banned in some places in Oregon, but we have been unable to confirm the report at this time.)

The Forest Service Gifford Pinchot National Forest site is filled with interesting information on huckleberries such as:

  • Changes in Washington law regarding the sale of Wild Huckleberries
  • History of huckleberries
  • Development of berry fields
  • Safety while picking
  • Questions and Answers about huckleberries

Should you decide to pick huckleberries (or any other berry or forest grown items) on forest service lands or national forests, I suggest you check with the local forest service office for details and regulations.

In the meantime, enjoy your berries!!

 

 

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More Huckleberry Reports from Montana

Posted August 21, 2013 By sandy

The high heat shortened the cherry harvest, but huckleberries in the Flathead may just be a little sweeter this year.Typically, huckleberry season kicks off on the Fourth of July. This year the huckleberry harvest began on July 5. Right now, we are in the height of the huckleberry season.

Fresh berries will continue to be picked until the first frost, likely up until October.

The owner of the Apple Barrel in Kalispell, David Cordell, expects this year to be a bumper crop with bumped up revenue.

“The crop looks very clean and we try to really hone in on hand picked stuff, kind of a higher quality than anything torn or any juicy stuff. So they’ve been really…the quality’s been higher, I think,” said Cordell.

Cordell credits the nightly rain and the hot, dry days for the success of this year’s huckleberry harvest.

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