Reports of Bumper Huckleberry Crop for 2017

Posted June 23, 2017 By sandy

This time of the year the question for huckleberry lovers is what is the forecast for the huckleberry crop this year?

Heavy snow pack and the wet springs typically make great conditions for a good huckleberry crop.

Huckleberry Crop

Here is what Rick Landers, outdoor writer for the Spokesman Review, said about what he found while hiking in northern Idaho and northeastern Washington earlier this month:

I hiked several areas this past week and saw for myself. And I’ve received photos from several readers. All reports indicate huckleberry bushes loaded with blossoms from Pend Oreille County through the Idaho Pandhandle.

Of course, there could be some areas with less abundance, but for now the general forecasts is, well, SaaaWEET.

WONDERFUL NEWS!!

If you have been out and about in huckleberry country, please let us know what you found.  Pictures always welcome!

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The Pinchot Partners from the Packard, Washington area are working with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to aid in the restoration of the forest and huckleberry crop.

According to The Chronicle, serving the greater Lewis County, Washington area, a meeting was held on May 24 to discuss the problem:

Those in attendance will learn about huckleberry areas in the forest and how the interested public can get involved with huckleberry restoration efforts. Information will also be available about huckleberry picking in the forest….

The Pinchot Partners and the Forest Service have worked together for the past seven years to improve huckleberry habitat. Harvesting trees commercially to “daylight” the huckleberry bushes, hand removal of competing vegetation, and conducting prescribed burning are all methods that can improve huckleberry production.

The Pinchot Partners was recently awarded two grants from the Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation to develop a forestwide strategy for restoring huckleberry habitat in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. 

In a follow up article from The Chronicle, the issue facing the Gifford Pinchot National Forest was described in detail:

As it turns out, huckleberries need a little bit of assistance from either nature or human hands in order to thrive among the dense thickets of forest that blanket the Cascade foothills. Namely, huckleberries require plenty of open canopy space in order to grow and ripen. Over the last 120 years, a combination of changing logging practices and increased fire suppression has created a forest that is choking out the once common huckleberry.

“Native Americans used to do burning to keep areas open and even logging helped,” explained Jamie Tolfree, coordinator for the Pinchot Partners. “The habitat is encroaching, bottom line.”

As the forest came under control of the U.S. Forest Service and logging operations began to dwindle, the forest grew denser. During that same time, Native Americans lost their right to conduct the controlled burns that cleared the underbrush where huckleberry bushes grow, and increasingly aggressive wildfire suppression efforts have prevented the natural thinning of timber stands.

John Squires, treasurer for the Pinchot Partners, says he’s been an eyewitness over the last few decades as formerly prime huckleberry habitat has begun to wither.

“I can remember being purple handed and purple faced and bringing my dad not very many huckleberries because most of them went in my mouth,” said Squires with a smile.

Squires used to regularly go picking up at the Midway Guard Station. Now, he says the terrain is covered in trees too thick to let the sun shine through. 

“You see the meadows just getting smaller and smaller,” said Squires, who estimates that about three-quarters of the huckleberry habitat in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest has been lost over the past 50 years or so. “We feel that if we’re not proactive and manage it appropriately it will disappear.”

In spite of the changing landscape, Squires still goes picking, but the task is much more difficult than before. He says he prefers to look in old clearcuts, but refused to divulge much more information than that. It seems huckleberry gatherers are as protective of their prime spots as golddiggers and mushroom pickers. 

“I’ll never tell you where I go picking,” said Squires. “That’s proprietary information.”

Squires said prime huckleberry season usually stretches from the end of July to the end of September, and amateur huckleberry hounds like himself don’t need a permit to go picking so long as they pick no more than 1 gallon per day or 3 gallons in a year. With huckleberries selling upwards of $30 per pound these days, Squires says that the health of their habitat is vital to the economy of Lewis County and other rural counties in Washington. He noted that huckleberries have never been domesticated, and commercial huckleberry harvesting permits typically sell out within two hours when they go on sale. 

After identifying the need to address the huckleberry problem eight years ago, the first hands-on huckleberry management efforts that the Pinchot Partners were involved in began about four years later. Those efforts include commercial logging of tall timbers and non-commercial cuts intended to clear out spindly trees and thick underbrush. The Pinchot Partners hope to monitor those sites as long as possible in order to study how those clearing efforts help to bring bright blue, purple and orange berries back to the landscape….

More info about the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

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Huckleberry Butter Cake with Lemon Glaze

Posted May 17, 2017 By sandy

We are on a roll with decadent huckleberry cakes recipes!   Here is a beautiful huckleberry butter bundt cake — perfect for company or any special occasion!

Huckleberry Butter Cake with Lemon Glaze

Huckleberry Butter Cake with Lemon Glaze

Ingredients

    Cake
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks real butter, softened (8 oz.)
  • 4 extra-large eggs, room temp.
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups frozen huckleberries, can sub blueberries, raspberries or wild blackberries
  • Lemon Glaze
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, (scoop and level method)
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. very soft butter
  • 1-2 tsp. milk or cream, to desired consistency adding 1 tsp. at a time

Instructions

    Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and lightly flour bundt pan. Set aside.
  2. Add flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder to your flour sifter. Sift into large bowl, not mixer bowl though. After sifting, stir a few times with a whisk to evenly mix ingredients into flour. Set aside.
  3. In mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter. Beat in eggs. Beat in vanilla, lemon juice and milk. Add dry ingredients all at once, and beat on low just until moistened, then beat on medium for 2 minutes. Gently fold in frozen huckleberries.
  4. Pour into prepared bundt cake pan and pop into preheated 400 degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake 40 minutes longer. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes. *If it appears to be sticking anywhere, loosen upper sides with a knife. Place serving plate or cake stand on top and turn over. Tap top and sides with a the butt end of a knife to loosen and carefully lift up pan to remove. If it doesn’t lift up, just tap a few more times until it releases easily. Let cool completely.
  5. When cool, dust top with lots of powdered sugar or make a lemon glaze. Store covered.
  6. Lemon Glaze
  7. Dump powdered sugar into medium bowl, stir in lemon juice and very soft butter. Stir in milk, one teaspoon at a time, until smooth. Pour over cooled cake.
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2017/05/17/huckleberry-butter-cake-lemon-glaze/

Check out the original article from Wildflour’s Cottage Kitchen

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Huckleberry Tea Cake

Posted May 3, 2017 By sandy

Huckleberry Tea Cake recipe is from a blog called Hungry Cravings.  According to the article, these huckleberry ‘newbies’ (or at least newbies when the article was written a few years back) became Huckleberry Lovers after picking in the Sawtooth Berry Fields near Mt. Adams, Washington.

Huckleberry Tea Cake

Huckleberry Tea Cake

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 9 ounces cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 10 ounces sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces sour cream, at room temperature
  • 6 ounces huckleberries
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9×3-inch round cheesecake pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on high for 3 to 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined and then beat in the vanilla extract.
  3. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then ½ of the sour cream, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the remaining ½ of the sour cream, and then the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing on low for only a few seconds after each addition until just combined, and stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gently fold in the huckleberries. Do not overmix.
  4. Transfer to the cake pan and spread evenly. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the edges of the cake start to shrink away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and finish cooling completely. Dust with plenty of powdered sugar, cut into portions, and serve.
  6. Makes 1 9-inch cake, serving 8. Huckleberries have a short summer season. Small blueberries make a fine substitute if huckleberries are unavailable. If you can get your hands on it, use Tahitian vanilla, which has a uniquely floral character. Use a springform pan if you don't have a cheesecake pan.

Notes

Makes 1 9-inch cake, serving 8. Huckleberries have a short summer season. If you can get your hands on it, use Tahitian vanilla, which has a uniquely floral character. Use a springform pan if you don't have a cheesecake pan.

http://wildhuckleberry.com/2017/05/03/huckleberry-tea-cake/

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Tips on Growing Huckleberries

Posted April 12, 2017 By sandy

The Wild Huckleberry Association’s favorite resource on growing huckleberries is Dr. Dan Barney’s Book:  Growing Western Huckleberries (link to book or pdf file is listed near the bottom of our Resource Page.)

Once in awhile, we run across a article with some excellent tips on growing huckleberries.  One such article, by Amy Grant, is from the Gardening Know How website:

Tips on Growing Huckleberries

Here are excerpts from her article:

Huckleberry Plant Care – Tips For Planting Huckleberries

… Keep in mind that the species requires moist, acidic soil anywhere from a pH range of 4.3 to 5.2 when planting your huckleberries. Also when planting huckleberries, they may be situated in either sun or shade, although you will get a better yield and larger, lusher plants in shaded areas.
 
Between April and May, expect the western huckleberry to flower, provided you live in USDA zones 7-9 where the specimen is recommended for planting. It is often found in mid-alpine regions and will thrive if you have similar conditions. Propagation can be from transplanting, rhizome cuttings or seeding.
 
Transplanting wild bushes is difficult due to their lack of centralized root systems, although this may be attempted in late fall to early winter. Grow the huckleberries in a pot for one to two years in a peat moss based soil before transplanting to the garden.
 

You may also start growing huckleberries via rhizome, not stem, cutting. Collect the rhizome cuttings in late winter or early spring, in 4-inch long sections buried in sand-filled nursery flats. Do not dip in rooting compound. Keep flats misted or covered with clear film to retain moisture. Once the cuttings have 1 – to 2-inch long roots and shoots, transplant into 1-gallon pots with peat moss based soil.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Huckleberry Plant Care – Tips For Planting Huckleberries

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Huckleberry Ginger Sorbet

Posted March 8, 2017 By sandy

How about Huckleberry Ginger Sorbet for a wonder Spring dessert (that is if you still have some huckleberries left in your freezer)! 

According to the original recipe post:

Pureed huckleberries provide most of the flavor of this sorbet, but we’ve added ginger to introduce another layer of taste.  If you would prefer just a hint of ginger, cut the number of disks in half.  They can also be eliminated completely if you prefer a pure huckleberry sorbet.

NOTE:  Sorbet is similar to ice cream without the dairy!

Huckleberry Ginger Sorbet

Huckleberry Ginger Sorbet

Makes about 1 pint!

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 cups fresh huckleberries or frozen huckleberries
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp water
  • 8 thin disks cut from fresh ginger

Instructions

  1. Make the ginger simple syrup: Combine the sugar with the water, ginger, and corn syrup in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved (you can cook longer to extract more flavor from the ginger, just take care not to over reduce your syrup).
  2. Pour the resulting syrup into a metal bowl that is sitting in an ice bath to rapidly chill it, stirring occasionally (you can also use the fridge). Remove the ginger disks and discard.
  3. Pass the huckleberries through a food mill or pulse in a food processor until a puree is formed. If using frozen huckleberries, they can be pulsed without thawing, but you will need to add a little water to achieve a puree. Press the puree through a strainer to extract the seeds and large pieces of pulp, which can be discarded (this step is optional, but highly recommended). Transfer the strained puree to a tall, thin container like a pitcher and stir in 1/4th cup of your sugar syrup.
  4. Carefully lower a baume meter or a large washed raw egg into the pitcher. Slowly add the rest of syrup to the puree until a section of egg a little larger than a dime floats above the surface (20 or so on the baume meter). If too much of the egg is floating, slowly add water to bring it back down. If too little is showing, add more simple syrup.
  5. You will likely end up with leftover syrup, which can be used for sweetening cold drinks or making more sorbets. We used 2 ½ cups total of the ginger syrup & ½ cup extra water, though your amounts may vary depending on your huckleberries’ unique sugar content.
  6. Chill the balanced sorbet base thoroughly in your fridge.
  7. Pour the sorbet base into a prepped ice cream machine. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions and move (well-covered) to the freezer to harden.
  8. Serve simply in a clear bowl with a sprig of mint.

Notes

Measuring Device: 1 large raw egg or a baume meter.

http://wildhuckleberry.com/2017/03/08/huckleberry-ginger-sorbet/

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What are Huckleberries?

Posted February 9, 2017 By sandy

If you are not familiar with our wonderful huckleberries, either you don’t eat fruit or you live under a rock ….  No, seriously, I would like to share some general information about huckleberries.

What are Huckleberries?

Ask Define, shares the following definition of huckleberries:

… Huckleberry is a name used in North America for several plants in two closely related genera in the family Ericaceae: Gaylussacia and Vaccinium. The Huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho.
 
While some Vaccinium species, such as the Red Huckleberry, are always called huckleberries, other species may be called blueberries or huckleberries depending upon local custom. Usually, the distinction between them is that blueberries have numerous tiny seeds, while huckleberries have 10 larger seeds (making them more difficult to eat)….
 
In the Pacific Northwest of North America, the huckleberry plant can be found in mid-alpine regions, often on the lower slopes of mountains. The plant grows best in damp, acidic soil. Under optimal conditions, huckleberries can be as much as 1.5-2 m (about 5-6.5 feet) high, and usually ripen in mid-to-late summer; later at higher elevations. …
Loveland Report-Herald shares the following information:
 
… If you’ve never seen a wild one, the berries are small and round, 5-10 mm in diameter and look like large (relatively) dark blueberries. Some are tart and some are sweet (much like teenage girls as I recall dimly).

Huckleberries are found tasty by birds, deer, humans and bears. Never disturb a bear with blue/purple chops.

Red huckleberries can be found in the maritime-influenced plant community from coastal Central California to southern Washington and British Columbia. If you wander inward in an easterly direction to the mountains of Montana and Idaho, you will find black and blue huckleberries in mid-alpine regions up to 11,500 feet in elevation.

The plants grow best in damp acidic soil having volcanic origin, explaining their presence in the coastal Northwest. They can grow to heights of one to two meters….

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Origin of “I’m Your Huckleberry”

Posted January 13, 2017 By sandy

Have you ever pondered where the saying, “I’m your huckleberry” came from and what it actually means?

Maybe you remember the line that was made famous by Val Kilmer in the movie:  “Tombstone”.  But where did he get the phrase?

Victoria Wilcox:  The Art of Story website shares some information on the topic:

I’m Your Huckleberry

Historical Background … From World Wide Words: Quite how I’m your huckleberry came out of all that with the sense of the man for the job isn’t obvious. It seems that the word came to be given as a mark of affection or comradeship to one’s partner or sidekick. There is often an identification of oneself as a willing helper or assistant about it, as here in True to Himself, by Edward Stratemeyer, dated 1900: “ ‘I will pay you for whatever you do for me.’ ‘Then I’m your huckleberry. Who are you and what do you want to know?’ ”. Despite the obvious associations, it doesn’t seem to derive directly from Mark Twain’s books….

Literary Background …  (From Walter Noble Burns 1927 novel,Tombstone: An Iliad of the Southwest”).

“They say you’re the gamest man in the Earp crowd, Doc,” Ringo said. “I don’t need but three feet to do my fighting. Here’s my handkerchief. Take hold.”

Holliday took a quick step toward him.

I’m your huckleberry, Ringo,” replied the cheerful doctor. “That’s just my game.”

Holliday put out a hand and grasped the handkerchief. Both men reached for their six-shooters.

“No, you don’t,” cried Mayor Thomas, springing between them. “You’ll fight no handkerchief duel here. There’s been enough killing in Tombstone, and it’s got to stop.”

That ended it. Holliday went into the saloon. Ringo withdrew across the street.

According to Victoria ….

Huckleberries hold a place in archaic American English slang. The tiny size of the berries led to their use as a way of referring to something small, often affectionately as in the lyrics of Moon River. The phrase “a huckleberry over my persimmon” was used to mean “a bit beyond my abilities”. “I’m your huckleberry” is a way of saying that one is just the right person for a given job. The range of slang meanings of huckleberry in the 19th century was fairly large, also referring to significant persons or nice persons.

So, there you have it!

 

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Winter Snow in Huckleberry Country

Posted January 6, 2017 By sandy

While many of us in huckleberry country are still digging out from one of the snowiest winters, I am wondering what impact the snow will have on the huckleberry crop this summer.

Here are some excerpts on the impact of weather on huckleberries:Winter Snows in Huckleberry Country

Huckleberries purple gold

by Laura Roady

Each year’s huckleberry crop depends on the weather. A cool, cloudy spring means a poor huckleberry year because the insects won’t have enough time to pollinate the short-lived blossoms….

Okay, nothing here about snow though!

But I did find some references to the soil where huckleberries grow after a fire — which of course reflects the benefits to the huckleberry crop after the 2015 fires:

While huckleberries grow in old burns, they aren’t like morels that proliferate the year after a fire. Huckleberries can take 15 years to reach maturity, but will bear fruit sooner. The ashy soil left behind by fires provides nutrients for the huckleberry plants, which thrive in damp, acidic soil.

Another reference from 2011 which was also a year for heavy snowfall:

Huckleberries — Beautiful Plant, Delicious Berries

by Jeanne DeBenedetti Keyes

Family lore has it that huckleberries are especially abundant during a year with a heavy snowpack. Now, this makes sense but is it really true?…

But what constitutes a “good year?” The Pacific Northwest had a record snowfall this year. The cool spring and summer allowed the snow to slowly melt, providing the huckleberries with a steady source of moisture.

And this is not complete without a note from Dan Barney’s Book:

Growing Western Huckleberries

Cascade and black huckleberries are naturally adapted to short-season areas and elevations of 2,000 feet and above. They depend on an insulating cover of snow for survival during winter’s sub-zero temperatures. Likewise, late-winter cold snaps (temperatures in the teens or single digits) following above-freezing warm spells can damage the bushes….

Huckleberries require a dormant winter period with temperatures around freezing. Production is possible in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-8. Whenever possible, grow huckleberries where 1 to 2 feet of snow persist throughout the winter, where winter temperatures remain above 0 degrees F, or where the plants can be protected when temperatures drop to 0 degrees F or below.

After reading Dr. Barney’s information and talking with ‘Mr. Huckleberry’, it is apparent that the snow cover is good for the huckleberry plants.  With the extreme cold we have experienced in the north western Rocky Mountain region, the heavy snows are protecting the plants.  And, of course, the melting snow will give the plant plenty of moisture in the early spring.

As for the rest, I guess we will have to wait and see how the season progresses!

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Huckleberry Sweet Rolls

Posted December 7, 2016 By sandy

Have you ever had Huckleberry Sweet Rolls?

My mother-in-law was famous for her cinnamon rolls.  As a matter of fact, her rolls were so loves by family that there was an abundance of them available at her funeral — a fond memory of the wonderful goodies she shared with everyone.

I wish she were still around as I know you she would love this Huckleberry Sweet Roll recipe.  Once again, this one is originally shared on the
Use Real Butter blog!

Huckleberry Sweet Rolls

Huckleberry Sweet Rolls

Ingredients

    Dough
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/4 tsps active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • extra butter for the pans
  • 2 tbsps butter, melted (to brush on before baking)
  • Filling
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • zest of 2 large lemons
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups (about 11 oz.) fresh huckleberries (or blueberries)
  • Frosting
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

    Make the dough:
  1. Warm the milk and water to 115°F. Sprinkle the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar over the warm liquid and let sit for a few minutes. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract, and egg to the liquid. Combine the remaining sugar with the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Pour the liquid into the dry mixture and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth. Lightly grease a large bowl with an unflavored vegetable oil. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Flip the dough over to oil the entire ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 90 minutes until it has doubled in size. Butter a 9×13 inch baking pan or two 9-inch round pans.
  2. Make the rolls:
  3. Mix the lemon zest and 1/2 cup of sugar together. Punch the dough down and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 16×9 inch rectangle. Spread the 1/4 cup of softened butter over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch margin at one of the long edges. Sprinkle the lemon sugar over the butter. Then sprinkle the huckleberries evenly over the the sugar. From the long edge with no margin, tightly roll the dough like a carpet. Pinch the edge to the roll to seal it. Cut the roll into 16 equal slices, placing each slice, cut-side down into the prepared baking pan(s). Cover the pan(s) with plastic and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Let cool.
  4. Make the frosting:
  5. While the rolls bake, cream the cream cheese and butter together in a mixer or by hand. Mix in the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice until uniform. Frost the rolls while warm. Makes 16 rolls.
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2016/12/07/huckleberry-sweet-rolls/

 

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