Huckleberry Cobbler

Posted June 4, 2015 By sandy

Found this wonderful huckleberry cobbler recipe in the Bastrop Daily Enterprise in Louisiana!

Huckleberry Cobbler

Huckleberry Cobbler

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cups huckleberries
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • ½ to 1 stick butter
  • (Use your own pastry recipe or buy crust already prepared.)

Instructions

  1. Roll pastry large enough to cover the bottom of a 9x13x3 inch baking dish. Put a solid piece of pastry over the bottom of the dish and bake at 375 degrees until slightly brown and dry.
  2. Roll out another 1/3 of the pastry and cut into strips and bake strips on a pastry sheet until brown and crisp. Roll out the last1/3 of pastry, cut into strips and set aside.
  3. Mix berries with 1 cup sugar, water and butter in saucepan and cook until tender.
  4. Mix flour and the remaining ½ cup sugar and add to fruit mixture. Stir over medium heat until thickened.
  5. Pour half of fruit mixture over the bottom crust. Layer the browned strips over the fruit. Pour the remaining half of the fruit over the strips and lattice the unbaked strips on top of the pie. Dot with additional butter.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees until brown and bubbly.
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2015/06/04/huckleberry-cobbler/

Add some ice cream on top and ….. yummmm!

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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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Huckleberry Jelly

Posted May 6, 2015 By sandy

Personally, I don’t understand jelly.  Why waste all that good fruit when you can just make jam — especially huckleberries which have very small seeds.

But for those of you who have left over fruit in your freezer and want to make jelly, here is a recipe I found online for huckleberry jelly:

Huckleberry JellyThis recipe makes approximately 3 pints or 6 half-pints. My great-grandson calls it mamaw jelly!

  • Using a large heavy pot, measure 4 cups huckleberry (or blueberry) juice and 1 package of Sure-Jel in pot. Bring to a rolling boil (a boil you can’t stir down) and then add 5 cups sugar all at once. Bring this to a rolling boil, and boil hard for 1 minute (time it please) stirring constantly.
  • Take from the heat and let set a few seconds, then skim off the foam from the top. Pour (or dip) the hot liquid into the hot jars. Wipe the tops of the jars with a damp cloth or damp paper towel, then add the hot lids and screw on the rings.
  • Since we live in the south, it is a good idea to put the jars of jelly into a pot, cover with water at least an inch and bring to a boil. Boil from 5 to 10 minutes. This sterilizes the jars, lids and jelly and you shouldn’t have any mold form on your hard-earned jelly.
  • You can cut down on the amount of foam if you add 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine to the mixture as it cooks. I don’t personally do this, but many people do.

The author of this article made me laugh when he/she added the following comments:

I enjoy picking blueberries, as it takes me back to the days when we used to go into the woods to pick huckleberries. When we happened upon a wild blueberry bush, it was magic. The wild blueberries were so much bigger and easier to pick than the tiny huckleberries. We don’t go wild huckleberry picking anymore. I wonder if anybody does. The blueberries are so much easier to pick, and they aren’t in the woods.

But despite the funny comment above (obviously, they do not live in the Inland or Pacific Northwest where people we ‘kill’ for wild huckleberries!), the article also include another way to use huckleberries:

The wild huckleberries have a little different taste than blueberries. Mama used to boil huckleberries with sugar and drop little dumplings in the hot syrup. That was a mighty good dessert with good thick fresh cream on top. That was before the days of Cool-Whip. If you want a simple dessert, you can do the same thing with blueberries. I don’t have a recipe, you just have to guess at the amounts. That’s what my mother did.

Read the full story for the method of juicing the fruit.

Can’t wait for huckleberry season!!

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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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Interview with Dr. Barney, Part 2

Posted April 15, 2015 By sandy

A week or so ago, we published a written copy of Dr. Barney’s interview with Kristina Johnson who is a food and agriculture reporter.

Here is the second part of the interview:Interview with Dr. Barney

3. What ecological/human threats face the wild berries?

Although the size and number of colonies are decreasing, none of the western Vaccinium species are threatened or endangered. Most are quite robust throughout their ranges, although some species are far more common than others.

4. Your report on growing the western huckleberry explains how people can plant the bushes by seed or transplant. My horticulture know-how is likely limited here, but how is that different than domesticating the plant?

Domestication involves developing improved varieties and production methods that allow the crops to be grown reliably and easily in commercial and noncommercial settings. Domestication also means having a consistent and predictable product. You may have a favorite apple or peach variety, for example. You know what a ‘Golden Delicious’ apple looks and tastes like. You know what to expect. We were trying to develop the same predictability and quality level with huckleberries.

5. Who are the commercial pickers? Are they people who primarily make their living off of foraged forest products?

Commercial pickers range from individuals, families, and small groups that pick small quantities of berries and sell them alongside the road to large, professional crews hired by brokers or processors. Some of the commercial crews represent immigrant labor, but not all. Picking usually commences in early July and runs until the berries are frosted off in September. The major period is mid-July through late August. Obviously, this is a part-time job and is often used to supplement income from other seasonal jobs, such as work at a ski resort.

6. Are there any estimates as to how much money the annual harvest amounts to? Are there maps that show the largest harvest regions within each state? (I grew up spending summers in Montana, so I remember all the buzz around huckleberry jam, ice cream, pies. The berries were a tourist magnet).

The berries remain a tourist magnet and there are myriad huckleberry products available – culinary, cosmetic, ornamental, and nutraceutical. I have been away from the industry for five years, however, and no longer have current economic figures. You might consult with an economist at one to the regional universities for better information.

7. You mentioned in your email that some of the berries likely go to export. Can you expand on who the primary buyers are for huckleberries?

My information regarding exports is apocryphal, so I will not elaborate. My understanding is that there was a demand for freeze-dried huckleberries for Pacific Rim markets, but I have no documentation to support that assertion.

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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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Interview with Dr. Barney

Posted March 31, 2015 By sandy

Although Dr. Barney is not currently propagating and growing huckleberries, he is still considered the expert on the subject and giving interviews to interested parties.

Dr. Barney rake demo,We are fortunate to have a written copy of his interview with Kristina Johnson who is a food and agriculture reporter:

1. Where does domestication of the berries stand now? Is there research close to succeeding?

Unfortunately, I believe little university or other government research is presently being conducted on domestication of western huckleberries and bilberries. Research funding is limited, and efforts are being directed toward well-established crops, such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. Much knowledge remains to be discovered and developed before most western Vaccinium crops can be grown successfully in commercial settings.

It is important to identify the different crops. I use the term “western huckleberries and bilberries,” which includes about eight species in the genus Vaccinium. All are edible, and several have outstanding culinary quality. The seeds are usually small to very small. The common names “huckleberry,” “bilberry,” and “whortleberry” are interchangeable and many species are known by all of these names and more. Eastern huckleberries are members of genus Gaylusaccia and, like Vaccinium, members of family Ericaceae. Unlike western Vaccinium species, eastern huckleberries have ten large, hard seeds and the berry flavor and culinary quality leave much to be desired. When it came time to domesticate a blue American fruit, farmers and breeders chose highbush and lowbush blueberries.

The domestication efforts that I was involved with included work on Vaccinium species … have the greatest immediate potential as culinary crops. Vaccinium ovalifolium (oval-leaf huckleberry) has good potential as a nutraceutical crop due to its high antioxidant properties. I did not work much with Vaccinium ovatum (shot or blackwinter huckleberry) which grows along the Pacific coast and has been cultivated to a small extent, primarily for ornamental foliage used by florists.

We were able to develop and demonstrate several production systems, and know how to grow the berries. I grew many thousands of plants in Idaho and colleagues also grew the plants successfully in northwestern Montana and western Oregon. The greatest limiting factor is the lack of improved varieties that have been developed to provide good site adaptability, acceptable growth and plant habit, and commercially-acceptable fruit in sustainable yields.

My breeding program at the University of Idaho produced some advanced selections. However, we were still at least one and probably two generations from releasing a cultivated variety when the research station that I was at closed due to budget cuts and I left the University. That program was not picked up by anyone else. Some of the selections are still being tested by growers in the northwestern U.S. and western Canada. I intend to resume the Vaccinium breeding program upon my retirement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October 2015. That program will take place in Southcentral Alaska.

2. Can you explain the incentives to domesticate the berries? Is it primarily commercial manufacturers pushing the research? What are the economic and ecological incentives and/or potential drawbacks to domesticating the berry?

Western huckleberries and bilberries have been harvested for food for at least centuries and likely millennia. They were vitally important both for food and trade for several Native American and First Peoples nations in western North America. When European colonists arrived they quickly adopted the crops and by the early 1900s were shipping large quantities of wildcrafted (plants harvested from the wild) berries to eastern markets. Picking the berries is very labor intensive and usually takes place in remote locations. The fruits are borne individually on the bushes, rather than in large cluster like domestic blueberries, and mechanical harvesters are not often feasible. Therefore, the amount of berries one person can pick per day is low. The commercial market peaked in the 1930s, and largely died during World War II when labor became scarce. The market began to re-emerge in the 1980s as general and ecotourism increased in the Northwest and western Canada.

Prior to the early 1900s, forest fires were not controlled and the forests were very different than they are now. Tree density was lower and understory shrubs much more abundant. With the advent of modern fire-fighting methods, fires were largely removed from the landscape. Native Americans had long kept highly productive berry harvest areas productive using controlled fires. That practice was outlawed. By the end of the 20th century, tree density had greatly increased while productive berry acreage shrank dramatically as the trees reclaimed the landscape and shaded out the berry crops.

While none of the berry species is threatened or endangered, colonies suitable for commercial harvest have greatly decreased in size and number due to forest encroachment and development of forest lands. With increased demand for the fruit for commercial culinary and nutraceutical purposes, commercial harvests have become increasingly aggressive and have reduced the availability of fruit for cultural, recreational, and subsistence pickers. In a related way, commercial harvests have resulted in conflicts with some Northwestern Native American groups, for whom huckleberries are an important part of their culture.

Wild huckleberry harvests are highly variable. During some years, the yields are very high and during other years very low. On average, you can expect a good harvest every 3 to 7 years. Such unpredictability makes operating a commercial enterprise challenging and encourages overharvest whenever the opportunity presents itself. The unpredictability also influences prices greatly, impacting income for pickers, brokers, and processors.

My program was intended to provide reliable crops of commercially sustainable quantities of fruit grown in cultivation or in managed forest stands (like highbush and lowbush blueberries, respectively) and to leave the wild forest huckleberry colonies for noncommercial harvests.

More of the interview next post!

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Huckleberry Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipe

Posted March 17, 2015 By sandy

Looking for a new unique huckleberry dish to create NOW, before huckleberry season?

Our huckleberry vinegar, featured on our Tastes of Idaho website, has many delicious purposes, other than use in salads, in cooking your favorite sweet and sour dish.

Check out the Wildbeary recipe below:

Huckleberry Sweet & Sour Sauce Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 C Wildbeary Huckleberry Vinegar
  • 1/8 C cider vinegar
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 T Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste: (recommended is ½ tsp of each)

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and use.
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2015/03/17/huckleberry-sweet-and-sour-sauce-recipe/
WBP HB vinegar

You can find Wildbeary Huckleberry Vinegar on our Tastes of Idaho website.

Enjoy your huckleberry sweet and sour sauce!

 

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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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