Picking Wild Huckleberries Archive

Cleaning Huckleberries

Posted May 19, 2016 By sandy

If you have ever picked wild huckleberries, you know that cleaning them can be a challenge.

We have seen many different methods — some more complicated than others — for cleaning these fragile berries.

I found an article on the Wineforest Wild Foods website that describes some suggested cleaning methods:

Cleaning Wild Huckleberries

A bucket of berries harvested by combing and “beating the bushes” contains many leaves and even smaller unripe green berries. Some people submerge the berries in a bucket then skimming off the floating debris. This is the least desirable method. It water logs the berries and dilutes their flavor. Creating a ramp to roll the berries down is certainly the best way. There are numerous variations on the ramp technique. One nice way is to get a long strip of screen or hardware cloth with holes smaller than the size of your berries. Bend the screen into a long gutter-shape. Raise one end at least three feet higher than the other end which should end in a bucket. Pour the unclean berries down the ramp. Leaves will stick in the screen and the smaller green berries should fall through the screen as they roll downhill.

Another easy ramp is just a pair of boards, in a “V” shape, or an old gutter. Line either with an old blanket. The leaves and twigs stick to the blanket while the berries roll away down into a bucket. If you add little horizontal baffles to the gutter or chute, the big clean berries bounce over these obstacles leaving even more particles and debris behind. It’s reminiscent of gold miner’s chutes. This method works best with the larger mountain huckleberries whose stems break off fairly easily.

The coastal evergreens are not as easy to clean. Because of the tenacious stems, hand-picking makes good sense. I often freeze the berries then clean them while frozen. You roll the berries around with your hands on a sheet pan, the stems fall off easily. Then just shake them in a strainer and the stems will fall through.

Check out the full article for pictures, harvesting and preservation methods

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Despite what you may have heard, huckleberries are very different from blueberries.  To me, huckleberries taste like blueberries on steriods!!

Other say a huckleberry taste like a cross between a blueberry and a red raspberry.

One way of another, huckleberries and blueberries are very different!

Here is a exerpt from an article that will help you understand more of why ….Huckleberries and Blueberries

Huckleberries and blueberries are not the same

First of all, the locations of the two berries are different. Wild blueberries grow in the northeastern portion of North America, including Maine and the Atlantic portion of Canada. Huckleberries are native to the northwestern United States and Canada. In fact, the huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho.

 

Huckleberries
There are about 40 species of huckleberry in the United States The shrub grows from one to three feet high, and has resinous leaves which feel sticky when pinched.

 

Blueberries
There are 15 or 20 species of blueberries native in the United States. The flowers of the blueberry are white and bell-shaped. The two-foot high plants have leaves which are small, oval and alternately arranged

 

How to Distinguish Huckleberries from Blueberries
Huckleberries and blueberries are distinguishable by their seeds. Each huckleberry contains 10 hard seeds, while a blueberry has numerous soft seeds. The two plants also differ in stem texture. Huckleberry stems are smooth while the blueberry’s stem is “warty.” When you eat huckleberries and blueberries, you will agree that the taste is different.

 

Huckleberries and blueberries are good and good for you. Huckleberries are not commercially cultivated so blueberries are easier to find in grocery stores. You can go into the woods and pick huckleberries yourself.

With all the snow in the mountains this past winter and the rain in the spring, it is looking like we might have a good huckleberry season this summer!

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Huckleberry Poem

Posted January 27, 2016 By sandy

One of our readers submitted the following poem, written by his mom,  Laurel Moss from Mendocino, California:

Huckleberry Poem Lady

Bounty

“Huckleberries, hunkering under leaves

Fumbling fingers combing branches

Berries bouncing, ting-ing into tin bowls

The air clear

The aroma a bit musky

Little movement or sound

But of the crackling of branches underfoot

The revelation in shadow of beaded clusters

Black and blue berries

Sweet, sour, shiny

And spider webbed

in this late October day

The taste of autumn in the air.”

Huckleberry Poem

 

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Huckleberry Picking Stories from Around the Region

Posted September 4, 2015 By sandy

Huckleberry picking all over the northwest is sporadic this year due to the early season and the fires.

Pincher Creek Echo reported  the lack of berries at the Castle Mountain Resort in British Columbia:

For some huckleberry picking on Castle Mountain is a long standing tradition … . Despite the lack of berries to pick, the Castle Mountain crew were expecting around 1,000 visitors for the festival this year.

Big Rock Brewery parked their van full of kegs, Castle Ford handed out berry buckets, and a pig roasted in the corner as people made their way to the chairlift and up the mountain.

Spirits remained high, even though there weren’t any huckleberries to be found, and the normally brilliant view was clouded by smoke.

“We’re two weeks to late,” said some visitors, while locals said there weren’t many berries this year in the first place.

Shirley Smith, a seasoned berry picker from B.C. said she could tell by the colour of the leaves that it was too late in the season.

But the chairlift was busy all day with huckleberry hopefuls, cold beer and live music waiting for them when they made their way back down.

According to the video posted by the Global News, picking on Castle Mountain, in previous years, yielded an abundance of berries for pickers.



The Flathead Beacon
reported better news for huckleberry pickers in the Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness in Montana:

The Danny On Trail meanders through forests of Douglas fir, western larch and spruce while traversing grassy ski runs laced with dense patches of huckleberries that are still ripe for the picking.

The slight winter snowpack and historically dry summer has been tough on the huckleberries throughout the region, but bumper crops of hucks, while sporadic, still pepper the Big Mountain, particularly at higher elevations.

Carry a milk jug on your hike to Flower Point, or take the chairlift and walk to the prominence from the summit while keeping an eye peeled for berries.

 

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Huckleberry Picking Update

Posted July 27, 2015 By sandy

With huckleberry season in full swing, reports are coming in on the availability and picking success.

Here are some of the articles:Huckleberry Picking Update

Idaho Huckleberries Arrive Early, Pickers Out ‘In Droves’

By George Prentice

A particularly warm and dry spring and summer are triggering an earlier huckleberry season this year.The Spokane, Wash. Spokesman-Review is reporting that huckleberry pickers are filling Inland Northwest slopes “in droves.”

Most huckleberries, native to the northwestern United States, grow wild, particularly in national and state parks, They typically require elevations between 2,000 and 11,000 feet and thrive in acidic mountain soil. Huckleberries are also known to grow in lower elevation patches near bodies of water.

“Huckleberry picking is serious business for a lot of people,” Jay Kirchner, spokesman for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, told the Spokesman-Review. “It’s a fun way to connect with the land.”

In addition to Idaho’s Panhandle, Gem State pickers traditionally grab fistfuls of huckleberries in and around Ponderosa State Park in McCall.

Check out this article which includes a video:

Huckleberries are popping up in higher elevations early this year

 

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Huckleberry Picking is On!

Posted July 20, 2015 By sandy

According to the Spokesman Review …

Time is ripe for hounding huckleberries

The same weather that brought a thin snowpack, early runoff and an explosive wildfire season has delivered something that is infinitely more positive: an early and flavorful huckleberry crop.

Berries are now ripening at all elevations, and the word is getting out. Pickers are appearing on Inland Northwest slopes in good numbers.Huckleberry Picking is On!

Highlights from article include ….

The fruit is generally found above 4,000 feet in elevation and is a dominant shrub type in subalpine zones. However, there are small patches of lower-elevation huckleberries, including a number of tantalizing bushes in areas like Priest Lake.

But most huckleberry picking occurs up the slopes, often along hiking trails and old gravel roads….

…For many locals, Mount Spokane State Park is the closest, easiest place to go for berries even though there are many other locations where the berrying is at least as good or better.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort has its ninth annual Huckleberry Festival set for Aug. 2, with picking tours and a “huckle shuttle” to ferry pickers back and forth from the patches.

Priest Lake had its huckleberry festival Saturday.

In Wallace, the town’s huckleberry festival is set for Aug. 14 and 15….

…Huckleberries are found all over the mountain at Schweitzer, and that includes the ski runs. The same goes for Mt. Spokane and the 49 Degrees North ski area at Chewelah Peak.

Despite the early season, some reports indicate that berry production is spotty in places. Dry areas exposed to sun and heat are not producing as well. Berries may also be small….

… Inland Northwest forests contain numerous habitats, many of which offer more shade and moisture. While temperatures reached triple digits in the valleys in late June, temperatures at upper elevations didn’t top the 80s.

And some stress is good for the berries, said author Asta Bowen, who wrote “The Huckleberry Book.” The amount of water a huckleberry gets from melting snow and seasonal rains will dictate flavor intensity. Less water yields more flavor.

Since this year’s berries have been growing on limited moisture, the huckleberries should prove to be tasty….

READ THE FULL ARTICLE
Huckleberry Picking are On!! -- The Huckleberry Book by Asta Bowen

Also quoted in the article is Asta Bowen and her book:  The Huckleberry Book.

Her book is filled with fun stories, information and recipes.

You can find Asta Bowen’s book on our sister site:  Tastes of Idaho.

 

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More on the Montana Huckleberry Forecast

Posted July 11, 2015 By sandy

Sounds like, if you want to go picking in western Montana, it is best to get out there soon or you may not find any huckleberries!!

Hot weather changing Western Montana huckleberry season

Chances are, if you are a passionate huckleberry picker, you have your More on the Montana Huckleberry Forecastspot – your secret spot – that you do not share with others. With our record-setting hot and dry June, the question is will your spot feature the same ripe output you’re used to.

“I think it really puts a burden on the plant. It’s a lot of stress, so we could actually see some of the plants shedding fruit, or having some poor development because of that,” Missoula County Extension Office Horticulturist Seth Swanson said.

He stressed that the season will be far from a total loss, but said you may have to search a little harder to find the good ones. One thing Swanson has found as he has hiked the trails around Western Montana is patches of huckleberries that are out sooner than usual, especially around the 6,000-foot level.

“Warm weather shed some of the snow quite a bit earlier this year, plus coupled with a lower snowpack.  But, really those early warm temperatures – kind of prolonged warm temperatures – kind of sped up that development,” Swanson said.

He told MTN News that with the front end of huckleberry season starting early, it is almost certain that the back end will come sooner than normal.

“Maybe the third week of July, last year looking at some records of mine was pretty prime for picking, and I think we’re going to see that shifted a couple of weeks early.  I’m seeing quite a bit out there right now,” Swanson said.

The bottom line is that if you plan on heading out to your secret huckleberry picking destination this season, don’t wait until it’s too late, and be prepared to spend a little extra time searching in order to fill your bags with your favorite purple summertime treat.

Read the full article from KBZK News

I certainly hope we can find huckleberries in other areas of the Pacific northwest!

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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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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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