Huckleberry Fever in Asia and Finland

Posted September 18, 2015 By sandy

In the inland Pacific northwest, we think we have the corner on huckleberries. But there are other countries and areas that grow them and use them.

A few weeks ago, we were approached by Rae Ellen Bichell for information on Dr. Dan Barney’s huckleberry research.  Here is excepts from her article on ‘huckleberry fever’:

Asian Countries Have Nordic Berry Fever, And Finland Can’t Keep Up

Right now, some 7,000 Thai workers are combing the Lapland wilderness of Finland and Sweden for bilberries, lingonberries and cloudberries. Each day, they hike into the woods that lie mostly above the Arctic Circle with buckets and simple scooping tools, emerging with up to 270 pounds in berries per person….

Huckleberry Fever in Asia and Finland

Who’s so wild about these intensely flavored berries? Nordic folk load them into pies, jams, breakfast porridge and reindeer meatballs. They make ice cream, juice, and even shampoo out of them.

But there’s another group that’s increasingly driving this wild fruit harvest: health-conscious people in East Asia…

Labels on various lotions and potions sold in Asia — like this dark purple powder — make exaggerated claims that the berries improve night vision, make people smarter, and ward off cancer, obesity, ulcers and heart disease.

But there’s actual science showing that Finnish and Swedish bilberries are packed with more vitamins and antioxidants than North American blueberries. Lingonberries can help prevent urinary tract infections. Cloudberries, the most rare and expensive of the three, may boost intestinal flora and help prevent colon cancer. And, says Rainer Peltola, a senior research scientist at the Finnish Natural Resources Institute, “a berry-rich diet has been connected with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.”…

The growing market pressure is leading to more discussion about how to develop a more dense and reliable crop farmers could control. And plant researchers and fruit companies are considering another possibility: cultivating the berries similarly to how lowbush, or wild, blueberries are cultivated in North America….

 

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Huckleberry Zucchini Bread

Posted September 16, 2015 By sandy

Everyone loves Zucchini bread!  But how about Huckleberry Zucchini bread?

I found this recipe this morning on the Raisin & Fig blog and had to share here:

Huckleberry Zucchini Bread

Huckleberry Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 1¾ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup huckleberries {or blueberries}

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and flour a loaf pan or 8" square pan.
  2. Combine dry ingredients. Mix zucchini, egg, butter and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture. Fold in nuts and huckleberries.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2015/09/16/huckleberry-zucchini-bread/

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Huckleberry Buckle Recipe

Posted September 8, 2015 By sandy

If you were lucky enough to find an abundance of huckleberries this season, you might want to try this Huckleberry Buckle recipe from All Recipes:

Huckleberry Buckle Recipe

Huckleberry Buckle Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups huckleberries
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C.) Grease the bottom of a 9 inch square pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar. In a separate small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into butter mixture. Stir in milk; mixture will be thick and lumpy. Spread batter into the prepared pan.
  3. In a large bowl, combine berries, 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup boiling water. Pour over the batter in the pan. Dot the top with remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2015/09/08/huckleberry-buckle-recipe-2/

ENJOY!!

 

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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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Huckleberries & Fire, Part Three

Posted September 1, 2015 By sandy

Following is the third in a three part article on Huckleberries and Fire by Malcolm Dell aka Mr. Huckleberry

Landscape activities that affect the development of huckleberry patches:

1) Fire suppression activities led to a decline in huckleberry patches across North America in the past century, by disrupting the natural fire frequency, and creating denser stands of smaller trees and less stimulation of the understory.

2) Clearcutting, which can mimic the effects of fire, has fallen out of favor due to poor aesthetics and past overuse (and abuse).

3) Timber harvesting in general is way down on federal lands (due to the environmental quagmire), and that is where most huckleberry stands are found in the western US.

4) Long-term weather patterns (i.e. increased temps and lower rainfall during summer months), combined with fuel buildup – from (3) above – create fires that are now much hotter, with greater risk of sterilizing the soil. Rhizomes and seeds are less likely to survive, and even if they do, can’t always do their thing in a baked soil.

Huckleberries & Fire

So, how will the 2015 (or any year’s) fires affect future huckleberry crops?

Where (regardless of land ownership):

  •  The fire occurred in huckleberry habitat – limited to parts of rich forested zones or high elevation subalpine forest habitats, AND
  • There was a huck patch or wildlife feces supplying a seed source, or with rhizomatous tissue remaining in the soil, AND
  • Those seeds and rhizomes survived the fire, AND
  • All or a substantial portion of any conifer overstory was removed by crown fire, AND
  • The burned area is not sprayed with herbicides next spring to support tree planting…

You should see a vigorous opportunity in huckleberries in about three to seven years, which should result in fabulous crops during the 2020s, and maybe into the 30s.

And so it is…!

PS Based on research at the University of Montana, you can stimulate individual huckleberry bushes and production in your favorite patch even more, by going out and hand pruning out competing plants around established huck stems. Of course, I didn’t tell you that… just in case the landowner or land management agency does not allow this sort of activity! But I highly recommend it on your own ground, or where you have permission. (And no one sees you in your favorite patch on Zipperlip Mountain…).

Another informative article on subject:

Huckleberry fields benefit from flames:  Joint effort between Forest Service, Yakama Tribe aimed at restoring productivity in Gifford Pinchot through controlled burns

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Huckleberries & Fire, Part Two

Posted August 29, 2015 By sandy

Following is the second in a three part article on Huckleberries and Fire by Malcolm Dell aka Mr. Huckleberry

Smokey the Bear has probably destroyed more huckleberry habitat than any other single factor. He is an icon for fire suppression programs in US forests, triggered by large fires in the early 1900s.

(I am not saying Smokey is bad, as the loss of natural and human resources from fire is catastrophic. But like anything else, there is a price to be paid when we disrupt Mother Nature.)

Huckleberries & Fire

Native Americans understood the benefits of fire on the landscape, and regularly started fires to rejuvenate and promote desirable berries and other species. In fact, early non-native explorers to the Pacific Northwest often talked about the hazy smoke that filled the mountains from man-caused fires, in addition to the natural fires.

After a fire, huckleberries will start sprouting from rhizomes if there is still living tissue in the soil, not sterilized by fire intensity. Also, seeds that survive the fire, or dropped by birds or bears, can restart the huck population.

Huckleberries reproduce kind of like insects, using masses of tiny seeds to win the competition with other plants. Seedlings are VERY tiny, one or two inches the first spring, and can be so thick they almost form a thin carpet. They are hard to recognize when sprouting, as they do not look much like huckleberry leaves or plants.

(And of course, due to seeding, rhizomatous colonies can intertwine.)

Due to their diminutive competitive size, seedling survival is very, very low. But if one seed prevails, and takes root, a colony begins forming. And they grow like the dickens once established.

Unfortunately, dozens (maybe hundreds) of plant species are following a similar protocol, in a race to take over as much space as they can after fire. But if a huck patch forms, the rhizomes often shoulder out lesser competition to create a nice patch. Purple fingers here we come!

Typically, it may take five years (on average) from seed – less from rhizomes – to begin bearing fruits on the bushes, depending on competition and sunlight. And they should bear for 10 or 15 years. After this time, you may see reduced vigor, and larger brush species (e.g. maple, willow) often choke them out. And conifers that seed in from adjacent mature trees, or from tree planting programs, often start shading out all the brush, including huckleberries.

The best thing that could happen at that point, to rejuvenate huckleberries, is a nice fire.

Stay tuned for Part Three

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Huckleberries and Fire, Part One

Posted August 26, 2015 By sandy

Following is the first in a three part article on Huckleberries and Fire by Malcolm Dell aka Mr. Huckleberry

Wild huckleberries of the genus Vaccinium – common to the western US and parts of Europe – are rhizomatous, forming colonies of bushes that are really just one plant. A seed sprouts, and then the roots (called rhizomes) spread through the soil, popping up stems in the adjacent area, thereby forming a “patch”.

Huckleberries & Fire

This characteristic of huckleberries leads to the myth that hucks cannot be commercialized. People go to the woods, shovel up a stem/rhizome (which is really just a twig or branch), and stick it in the ground at home, in an inappropriate soil type. Results are predictable.

Note that huckleberry soils are highly acidic – a common trait of the rich coniferous and sub-alpine forest habitats where they are found.

Huckleberries actually grow very easily from their VERY tiny seeds. Smear ripe berries across a paper towel or fine wire mess such as a dense strainer, let them dry and save them. Carefully! Breathing on them may send them flying.

But that is another story.

So, the questions here becomes… how does fire affect huckleberry ecology and future crops? And what can we expect in the aftermath of an historic fire season…one that affected many tens of thousands of acres of potential huckleberry habitat?

Generally, huckleberry colonies or patches – like virtually all brushy species – are heavily stimulated by fire.

After a fire, competition for space, water, and nutrients is reset to zero; the darker soil attracts early spring warmth; and the burnt plant materials fertilize the soil with massive amounts of mineral-rich ash. Roots that survive the fire (most do), sprout with a vengeance the following spring. After almost any fire, the landscape literally turns into a far richer green than it was the spring before the fire.

For some species, fire “scarifies” seeds or cones, allowing them to sprout more easily after a fire, as part of their natural ecology. Examples would be lodgepole pine and red-stem ceonothus (a preferred elk browse).

Of course, fire intensity may affect which species are promoted after a fire, and whether huckleberries come back.

Hucks grow best in full sunlight, up to about 30% shade, at which time the colonies begin to decline. So, openings from fire (historically) and clearcutting (more recently), are usually critical to an abundance of healthy patches. Sometimes patches also rejuvenate after insects or disease remove the coniferous overstory, letting in sunlight.

Stay tuned for Part 2

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Donnelly Huckleberry Festival

Posted August 14, 2015 By sandy

Check out the Donnelly, Idaho Annual Huckleberry Festival, August 14th thru 16th, 2015, for a fun filled weekend:

Donnelly Huckleberry Festival

Friday:  Vendor Court 12pm to 6pm

Saturday

  • Vendor Court 9am to 6pm
  • Huck Trot 5K 9am
  • Parade 12pm
  • Pie Eating Contest 12:45pm
  • Rodeo 1pm
  • Concert/Street Dance featuring Jeff Crosby 7pm

Sunday

  • Vendors 10am – 3pm
  • Huckleberry Pancake Breakfast 8am – 11am
  • Dessert Contest 11am
  • Rodeo 1pm

For more information, contact the Greater Donnelly Area Chamber of Commerce

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Huckleberry Crisp

Posted August 10, 2015 By sandy

Have you ever tried huckleberry crisp?

I found this recipe on Beyond the Chicken Coop blog by Kathy.

Here recipe uses granola for the ‘crisp’ portion which makes it very fun and easy to make.

Huckleberry Crisp

Huckleberry Crisp

Ingredients

  • 4 cups wild huckleberries
  • 1 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups granola
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup flour

Instructions

  1. Mix huckleberries, sugar and ¼ cup flour together. Pour into a baking dish.
  2. In another bowl, mix granola, butter, and ¼ flour together.
  3. Pour granola mixture over huckleberries.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes.
  5. Keep a close eye on your crisp. You want the mixture to be bubbling, but you don't want your topping to burn
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2015/08/10/huckleberry-crisp/

Check out Kathy’s full article include her picture of ‘purple hands’!

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New Facebook Group for Huckleberry Lovers!

Posted August 6, 2015 By sandy

We have just published a huckleberry group where you can share your stories, pictures and recipes for huckleberries:

Huckleberry Hunting and Recipes

Huckleberry Hunting & Recipes

Join our Huckleberry Facebook Group today and get in on the fun!

NOTE:  Our “I Love Wild Huckleberries! Picking, Growing, and Cooking” is also active if you would like to like it as well!

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