Picking Wild Huckleberries Archive

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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Huckleberries in Northeastern Oregon

Posted May 28, 2015 By sandy

Another old, but wonderful article on huckleberries in Oregon.  Originally published in 2006, this Baker County article is just as pertinent today as it was 9 years ago.

Here are some of the highlights:

Best huckleberry picking in the world

… For many Baker County residents, picking huckleberries is a summer tradition as beloved as camping or fishing or cutting firewood.

Except you don’t need a license or a permit to go huckleberrying….

Huckleberries in northeastern Oregon

What you do need, though, is to know where the huckleberries grow. You could ask around, of course, but such queries probably would prove as fruitful as, say, trying to get a deer hunter to give up his favorite places to stalk big bucks.

Fortunately, huckleberries thrive in forests throughout Northeastern Oregon, and most of the best patches are on public land, so you don’t have to cajole permission from a property owner.

“There are nine species native to the region, and it has some of the best huckleberry picking in the world,” said Dr. Danny L. Barney….

… You’ll rarely find the berries at elevations below 4,000 feet, or above 6,500, Barney said.

Huckleberries ripen as early as mid-July, but in most years, and most berry patches, the first half of August is the prime picking period.

Although they’re related to blueberries, huckleberries are about half the size of the commercially raised berries you buy at the supermarket….

… What’s not usually necessary, though, is to trudge miles through the woods — huckleberries often grow in profusion right beside roads, Barney said.

He also suggests pickers look for places that were either burned or logged 10 to 15 years ago.

Huckleberries prosper in these openings in the forest canopy, where they bask in the sun for part of the day but still get some shade, Barney said.

The quality and quantity of the annual huckleberry harvest can vary greatly depending on weather and other factors.

Most years, though, you’ll find berry-laden bushes in the Eagle Creek country northeast of Baker City, and around Granite northwest of Sumpter….

… Although Barney said it’s relatively easy to grow huckleberries in your garden, he discourages people from digging up bushes out in the woods and then transplanting them.

“What looks like a bush in almost every case is actually just a branch,” he said. “When you plant them they almost always die.”

The roots are usually deep underground and difficult, if not impossible, to find, Barney said.

He recommends huckleberry aficionados either grow plants from seed, or buy bushes from a nursery….

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

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Huckleberries in the Portland Area

Posted April 30, 2015 By sandy

Upon searching the web for articles on huckleberries, I found this article that was first published in July 2009.

Although this article is nearly 6 years old, it gives some give tips on picking huckleberries in the Portland area:

How To…Hunt for HuckleberriesHuckleberries in Portland area

IF THERE’s ANYTHING WORTH LOOKING FORWARD TO about the end of a sublime Pacific Northwest summer, it’s a handful of huckleberries. During their peak season in August, the tangy, tart berries sweeten everything from milkshakes to mojitos. And the hide-and-seek game of finding them is a rite of passage for Portlanders, new and old. But Dr. Danny Barney, a professor of horticulture at the University of Idaho, says the fruit, which is nearly impossible to grow domestically, is becoming increasingly elusive. It’s not just because your neighbors are hoarding the loot. In 2008, rangers in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest issued nearly five times as many permits to commercial berry pickers—anyone harvesting more than three gallons—than they had just three years earlier. Thanks to this sudden influx of licensed huckleberry hunters, who earn up to $35 per gallon, hillsides can get picked clean soon after the permits get issued in mid-August. So if you want to find these precious fruits, you need to know what you’re doing. Dr. Barney offers the following advice for making the most of a berry outing.

MAKE A PLAN
Don’t expect locals around such huckleberry hot spots as Mount Adams’s Mowich Butte or Olallie Lake on Mount Hood to cough up any intel on where the berries are bountiful. Instead, stick with the Forest Service for solid advice. Ranger stations, like Mount Adams’s, will pinpoint reliable areas such as Little Huckleberry Mountain, Huckleberry Access Campground, and the Sawtooth Berry Fields, where commercial picking is limited.
Mt Adams Ranger District, 509-395-3400; Zigzag Ranger District, 503-622-3191

STUDY YOUR GAME
Huckleberries are purple, black, blue, or sometimes red in color, with smooth skin. They resemble blueberries in size and shape. The bushes, which grow to be about seven feet tall, thrive where sunshine is abundant. Comb through clear-cuts or remnants of old burns. Check your altimeter, too: the sweet spot for berries lies between 4,000 and 6,000 feet. The later it is in the season, the higher up you’ll have to go.

SAFEGUARD YOUR INVESTMENT
When jostled, huckleberries tend to bust open and spill their abundant juices. Avoid this trailside travesty by opting to place them in a plastic container with a lid, like a Nalgene bottle. If you want to freeze them, a plastic Ziploc bag will work fine. Just rinse the berries, and then, to avoid clumping, spread them to dry or dab them with a paper towel before tossing them into the icebox.

NOTE:  Dr. Barney is no longer with the University of Idaho, but is still considered the best expert on huckleberries!

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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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The Huckleberry Basket

Posted March 4, 2015 By sandy

Recently, we made a new ‘huckleberry lover’ friend:  The Huckleberry Basket!

John contacted me to ask if he could use some of our huckleberry photos for his new website.  Of course, a conversation ensued and, once again, I discovered that huckleberry lovers are some of the nicest people!

So, I have dedicated this post to share some of the wonderful information he has on his website:

Huckleberry Basket websitePicking and Cleaning Huckleberries

… The most basic suggesting for cleaning is pouring the berries out on a cookie sheet, and then pick out the berries by hand. This is a very simple process, however it’s a bit time consuming, and asking friends or family for help will shorten your yield!



Another option is to simply dunk the berries into a bucket filled with water. The berries will sink to the bottom and most of the bugs, stems and leaves will float up to the top. This is a great way to clean out the berries, it’s less time consuming, and does a pretty good job at getting them clean. My only complaint about this is it can waterlog the berries, and if you toss them right into the freezer you will end up with clumps of berries when it comes time to pulling some out.



My favorite is something that requires a bit of ingenuity. This process is almost like sluicing for gold. You take berries and slide them down an incline, and the basic idea is that the berries will roll down the incline and sticks, stems, and leaves will be left behind….

John suggests some good methods for cleaning berries.

How do you clean your berries?  If you use a different method, please share it with us!

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Huckleberries in the Pacific Northwest

Posted February 18, 2015 By sandy

Recently a reader asked if I could post an article about huckleberries in northern Washington.  I did some searching and found the following article by Dea on her Live.Eat.Travel blog and found some information on huckleberries in the Pacific Northwest.

Here are some excerpt from the article (NOTE:  Her article is over 4 years old, but picking huckleberries does not change!)

How to pick Huckleberries in the Pacific Northwest

Vaccinium Parvifolium fruit

Vaccinium Parvifolium

When and Where:

The berries are ripe somewhere between late August and late September based on the year. Ask your local gardener if this was a late year or an early year for all plants. That should give you a good indication of what is happening with the berries. You will need find your own patch. Click here for the Washington Trails Association’s hints to what to look for and a short list of hikes with huckleberries on them…

What to bring:

  • A hands free container
  • A larger container to fill up as the smaller container gets full. A 5 gallon bucket a good standby.
  • Long pants – no matter how warm it is. You will need the protection from the brush.
  • Sturdy shoes and thick socks
  • Non-Deet bug spray. There is nothing like a fly that won’t leave you alone that can ruin sitting in a patch of huge huckleberries on a beautiful day. If you use deet, expect to eat it later in your berries.
  • Hat – sunglasses make seeing the berries harder, so a hat is a good way to keep the sun out of your eyes.
  • Sunscreen – last time I went, I brought it but didn’t use it. I now have a farmers burn/tan.
  • Water – by the gallon. You will want to wash off your hands when you are done and you will need a lot of water to get this done efficiently. It is also good for drinking.
  • Toilet paper, just in case…
  • Gallon freezer bags – to help store the berries after you are done. This will also help you estimate how much you have picked.
  • Multiple layers of tops – you never know if it is going to be sweltering hot in the sun or cold from the clouds and the breeze. It is also a good idea to bring something in case of rain.
  • Food – lunch and snacks for the way down.
  • And finally, a sense of adventure and a desire to get some yummy berries.

    Vaccinium deliciosum with fruit

    Vaccinium deliciosum

 


Identifying the Berries:

There are actually over 5 berries commonly named Huckleberries.  It is also important to distinguish between Mountain Huckleberries and Red Huckleberries. Red Huckleberries are the type that you will see in low level forests and in backyards. These are an entirely different species of plant and taste very different…

Vaccinium Membranaceum with black fruit

Vaccinium Membranaceum

From my experience, most Mountain Huckleberries in the Washington mountains fall into three basic categories: blue, black with a reddish hue to them and then just plain black…

Typically, my least favorite kind are the blue ones. They taste more like blueberries and are more bland…

Happy picking (in the late summer) to huckleberry lovers near the coastal Pacific Northwest!
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Huckleberry Picking in Canada and California

Posted August 28, 2014 By sandy

The Castle Mountain Resort Huckleberry Festival on Gravenstafel Mountain (Alberta, Canada) was held last weekend.  Reports of an abundant huckleberry crop was apparent, according to the video below.

 

According to the Global News website:

Huckleberries ripe for the picking at annual festival

On Saturday, many braved the Gravenstafel Mountain above Castle Mountain Resort to pick bushel after bushel of sweet, blue huckleberries. The Huckleberry Festival has been a tradition at the resort for decades now, and it provides a rare opportunity for outdoors lovers to enjoy the mountains in the summer.

As for the fruits themselves, huckleberries are in the blueberry family, and grow best at higher altitudes. “They’re quite sweet and they don’t have a pit so you don’t have to worry about spitting them out or cleaning them for a pie or a cheesecake and they freeze very well,” says Stewart. “There are actually four types of huckleberries on our mountain from various sizes to various colours. And they grow about five hundred miles on either side of the Canadian border at this elevation.”

Elsewhere, in northern California, Karen Pavone, talks about her huckleberry picking adventure with her accomplished forager friend, Elizabeth:

Huckleberry Heaven

A fruitful forage depends on good timing. Start your quest too early in the season and the object of your desire may not be ripe (or even visible in the case of those elusive winter mushrooms). Wait too long and you’ll likely find vines and branches stripped clean by birds and other critters who beat you to the harvest. In Northern California, August is the perfect month to forage for the seasonal wild blackberries and huckleberries that grow like weeds in our coastal hills.

Karen’s article is an easy read with lots of wonderful pictures.  She also includes Elizabeth’s grandmother’s tart recipe:

HB tart

 Check out the original article for her Huckleberry Tart Recipe!

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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 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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