Beware of Bears

Posted August 31, 2016 By sandy

Huckleberries are an important source of food for bears, so if you are out picking, make sure to watch!

Here is a recent story published in the Spokesman Review Outdoors Blog by Rich Landers …

Berry picker suffers bites after surprising grizzly

A park employee, while off duty picking huckleberries in the Swiftcurrent valley, surprised what is believed to be a grizzly bear. She sustained non-life threatening injuries to the leg and the hands. The surprise encounter which led to a non-predatory attack occurred on Saturday in the early evening.

The woman walked most of the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail back before she was met by park rangers an taken to medical help.

She was carrying bear spray but it was not deployed. Hikers reported a grizzly bear sow and two cubs leaving the area shortly after the incident.

The last Glacier National Park visitor injury by a grizzly bear was on Sept. 29, 2015, when a 65-year old male hiker surprised a sow grizzly with two sub-adult cubs, receiving puncture wounds to his lower leg and injuries to his hand.

READ MORE HERE

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Domesticating wild huckleberries is a project that several different agencies have researched over the years.  Dr. Dan Barney,who has been a friend of this organization since its inception, has several articles on his findings while working at the University of Idaho’s Sandpoint Research center (which was closed in 2010).

New Development on Domesticating Wild Huckleberries

Dr. Dan Barney presentation at the Elk River Huckleberry Workshop held in 2005

Nathan Tarlyn, a research assistant at Washington State University, has recently picked up the torch on domesticating wild huckleberries , according to an article by Taryn Phaneuf in CrossCut.com.

Here are some excerpts from her article:

Taming the Northwest’s beloved huckleberry

Huckleberries are completely wild — they won’t be found lined up in rows on farms like their tamed cousin, the blueberry. Instead, thousands of people appear in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest each year, armed with buckets and permits, looking to cash in on a berry crop that retails for upward of $10 per pound.

Previous attempts have failed because wild huckleberries’ dependence on their ecosystem makes them notoriously hard to grow anywhere else. But Tarlyn works in a lab known for its deep dives into plant genomes that wind up solving major problems in the world of tree fruit, and the huckleberry puzzle caught researchers’ attention. Three years after he introduced the challenge, a set of huckleberry plants growing in a campus greenhouse produced fruit — a process that takes closer to seven years in the wild. Researchers estimate that within another year, the first domesticated variety will be ready….

The lab began with tissue cultures from wild huckleberry plants Tarlyn bought at a wild plant store. Normally, it would take years for those cuttings to reach maturity, but a previous breakthrough by Dhingra’s lab altered the timeline. They pioneered a method for propagating plants five times faster than traditional nurseries using a soil-free, nutrient-rich medium….

Step by step, the lab saw success with huckleberries: With the right soil mix, plants survived in the greenhouse, where researchers could manipulate the conditions to speed up growth. To get berries this year, Tarlyn put blueberry plants in the greenhouse and released bumblebees for pollination. The unorthodox method worked, and now they’re germinating new huckleberry seeds to see what traits the crosses will have that may lead to an attractive variety later….

“Our goal is to have the productivity of a blueberry and the quality of a wild huckleberry,” Dhingra says….

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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I have heard wild huckleberries called lot of things, but ‘crack cocaine of the Rockies’ was a new one on me.

Seabury Blair Jr. wrote a very interesting perspective on huckleberry pickers for the Kitsap Sun.

Huckleberries -- 'Crack Cocaine of the Rockies'?

Here are some excerpts form his article:

Berry picking like a drug at Mount Rainier

B.B. Hardbody, my infinitely better half, says she has noticed several differences between the hikers we’ve met over there and the hikers we see in the Olympics and west side of the Cascades …

One of the differences I’ve noticed is that while the lure of chanterelles and other fungi draws many to the great outdoors in our neck of the woods, there’s an even greater siren on the other side of the state. They call them huckleberries, but I call them the crack cocaine of the Rockies.

Yes, you will find blueberry or huckleberry pickers on trails around the Olympics and Cascades, but the pastime doesn’t hold a candle to the droves of berry hunters there. They stampede up the trails like bull elk in the rut, trampling through the forests wild-eyed and drooling.

I may exaggerate. But not by much….

Hardbody stopped to pick a few and mentioned how tasty they were. I’m something of a berry snob and only stop for those delectable low bush huckleberries that grow on the alpine slopes.

“You gotta try these,” she said, already displaying the telltale purple tongue of an addict.

So I did. I found them sweeter and more succulent than almost any huckleberry I’ve ever tasted.

Still, we had miles to go and little time for picking. I charged ahead — if my waddle these days can be called “charging.”

Hardbody lagged behind, slurping berries like an anteater might inhale its food. She reminded me of a berry-sucking Dyson….

Well, I hope all you huckleberry ‘crack addicts’ got your fill of huckleberries this season!!

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Huckleberry Recipes from Oklahoma

Posted August 23, 2016 By sandy

Remember when I told you that Jay, Oklahoma considered itself the Huckleberry Capital of the World?

Well agree or disagree, but they have posts some delicious huckleberry recipes in the aftermath of the huckleberry festival earlier this summer.

Huckleberry Recipes from Oklahoma

Check out the following recipes published on the Grand Lakes News website:

  • Huckleberry Buckle
  • Huckleberry Fritters
  • Huckleberry Ice Cream
  • Huckleberry Raspberry Jello Salad
  • Huckleberry Banana Shake
  • Fresh Huckleberry Cream Pie
  • One more ….

Huckleberry Sweet Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 C. self-rising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 C. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 C. huckleberries, fresh or frozen (thaw slightly to separate)

Instructions

  1. Cream eggs, butter and sugar in large bowl.
  2. Gently stir flour, milk and vanilla to the mixture.
  3. Sprinkle extra flour on the huckleberries to keep them from sticking together (helps them stay up in the batter, without dropping to the bottom of the pan).
  4. Fold the berries into the mixture and pour into small loaf pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
  6. Turn out of pan and slice when cool
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2016/08/23/huckleberry-recipes-oklahoma/

Check out the other recipes

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Castle Mountain Huckleberry Festival

Posted August 20, 2016 By sandy

The annual huckleberry festival in Castle Mountain in Alberta Canada is now a 3-day festival!

The festival started on Friday and is going through until Sunday.

Huckleberry Festival

Huck Fest grows to 3 days

The majority of the activities take place Saturday at the ski area west of Pincher Creek.

Breakfast is available from 9-10:30 a.m. in the daylodge. Then from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. people can ride the chairlift to take in the scenery and get to the best huckleberry picking spots on the mountain.

A flea market will be set up from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. as well as activities for children from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. including a bouncy castle, games and face painting.

A barbecue lunch is available from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and there is a pig roast buffet supper at 6 p.m. A silent auction will be set up also on the Saturday, with proceeds benefiting the Castle Mountain Community Association.

Live music will be playing from noon to 8 p.m. as well at 9 p.m. when Elk Run Riot takes the stage.

Again a campfire Saturday night closes out the day if the weather permits.

Sunday features breakfast in the T-Bar Pub from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It looks good,” says Crawford, about the huckleberry crop on the mountain. “The guys were out the other day working and they ate huckleberries for their lunches.”

While the ski resort is slower in the summer months, the facilities are still used for weddings, conferences and retreats.

The Huckleberry Festival is the biggest event for CMR during the warmer season.

More information

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Huckleberry Stories in the News

Posted August 18, 2016 By sandy

So many huckleberry stories in the news …. mostly due to the more abundant crop this year.

So many stories, that I think I am going to list several of them here for you to check out:

Berry picking with Huckleberry Hound

By JERRY PAINTER from Post Register

Saturday, my wife, dog and I drove up into the hills past Kelly Canyon, threw up a tent, ate some dinner and went hunting for the tiny purple berries…

Sunny, a golden retriever, snacks on huckleberries in the Kelly Canyon area on Saturday. Sunny is now learning to answer to the name of Huckleberry Hound …

 

Researchers try to unlock berry mysteries

By Sam Wilson at the Daily Inter Lake

Huckleberry enthusiasm has been elevated to obsession in Northwest Montana, where purveyors of the seasonal fruit advertise products ranging from jams, pies, salads and milkshakes to candles, coffee, wine and beer — even huckleberry-flavored cartridges for electronic cigarettes.

Yet for the scientists who know that the berries play a key role in the ecosystems of Northern Rockies, a full understanding of the huckleberry plant remains elusive.

 

THE FOODIE FILES: How I Huckleberry

By Annie Fenn, MD  with the Planet Jackson Hole

NOTE:  This article has a yummy recipe for Huckleberry Chia Seed Jam!!

The problem with the huckleberry season around here is that it arrives in the middle of summer. As soon as I get wind that those wild little berries are in, I make grand plans to head out to the hills and fill my buckets. My intention is always to gather enough huckleberries to keep my family rolling in huckleberry pancakes, pies, and jam all winter long…

 

Huckleberry buyers reveal their secrets

By Lynne Haley at the Bonners Ferry Herald

Even though many of the old mines in North Idaho are long since played out, riches remain for those who know where to find them. The region’s wild huckleberries are ripe for the taking this time of year, and Bonners Ferry residents have a go-to source for turning the fruits of their labor into cold cash…..

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Huckleberry Picking Tips

Posted August 12, 2016 By sandy

Everyone has their own huckleberry picking tips or techniques we use when picking berries, but I think we can all agree on the following:

There are many tips and tricks to the art of huckleberry picking, but only one rule: never, ever reveal the location of your personal huckleberry heaven.

The ‘tip’ above appeared an article on The Lewiston Tribune website.

Huckleberry Picking TipsHere are some of the tips that Ruthie Prasil listed in her article:

Juicy Little Secrets!

You’ll want to be up in the mountains where it’s cooler. Once you’re looking at a temperature in the low- to mid-70s, try turning off some Forest Service access roads. Parking along these and hiking up just a bit is usually good practice.

Bring small buckets and Ziploc baggies. Some of my saddest moments in life have been watching my full bucket of berries slowly tip over and tumble down the mountainside. Every now and then, transfer your berries to the Ziploc bag and snap that sucker shut.

You’ll want good shoes (closed toe, good for climbing) and long pants. It wouldn’t hurt to carry bear spray, but I say that because I’m always afraid of wolves or bears attacking out of nowhere.

Huckleberry plants or bushes look like this: Lots of green leaves with berries scattered throughout. They are nothing like raspberry bushes or strawberry plants, with big berries tightly packed together. Huckleberries are tiny and delicate. You’re lucky to get two or three on the same twig.

Berry colors vary, but you want the ones that are more blue/purple than pink. Leave the green and pink ones and grab them the next time you’re out, once they’ve ripened.

Huckleberries are soft and fragile. You know how with herbs and some fruits, you can hold onto one end of the plant and by pinching your thumb and pointer together, slide it down the plant while the herbs or berries slide off? This is not the case with huckleberries. If you try that, you will end up with a juicy, purple mess. They must be picked one by one, and carefully at that. Once you’re used to handling them and picking them, you’ll be able to hold your bucket over the plant while you quickly pluck them one by one and let them fall.

Great tips!Igloo Cooler

One thing, we, at the International Wild Huckleberry Association, would suggest is to use a small  ‘Igloo style’ cooler for storing your picked berries.  If you use ziplock bags during a hot day, you can cook your berries!

Check out more huckleberry picking tips.

 

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Restoring Huckleberries After Fires

Posted August 10, 2016 By sandy

Last year experienced one of the biggest fire seasons in the Pacific Northwest — including the burning of several acres of huckleberry habitat.  Restoring huckleberries after fires is a concern of every huckleberry picker.

Historically, Native Americans burned huckleberry fields to improve the health of the huckleberry patches.  The Gifford Pinchot National Forest Huckleberry webpage describes this process:

For thousands of years, American Indians spent summer and fall high in the mountains hunting, fishing, picking berries, and celebrating the plentiful gifts of the land. Once every few years, they burned the berry fields after harvest, to kill invading trees and to insure healthy fields the following year. The Indians in this area regarded the rituals of picking, preserving, and eating berries as a cultural and traditional use with religious significance….

Thousands of years ago, uncontrolled wildfires created openings in the vast forest. Huckleberries prospered in the sunlight caused by these natural openings. For countless years, repeated fires caused by lightning or set by Indians killed the invading trees and brush. But the forest is constantly trying to reclaim its lost territory. If it were not for fire, the berry fields of today would have long since been reclaimed by the forest. Today, scientists are trying to determine the best method of maintaining the huckleberries as a valuable forest resource…

Restoring Huckleberries After Fires

In this tradition, the Colville Indian tribe is working to restore huckleberry plants on their reservation in northeast Washington.  The Tribal Tribune posted two stories about this project:

Nearing the one year anniversary of the fire, several Tribal and BIA programs gathered in the burned scarred area of Upper Gold Creek in hopes of reintroducing huckleberries (also known as vaccinium membranaceum) back to the area.

On July 13-14, Jon Meyers Project Lead/Resource Specialist for the BAER Team and History and Archeology accompanied by his staff, Mount Tolman Fire Center, Forestry Reforestation Offices and TANF Summer Youth Workers assigned to Forestry planted 1,880 huckleberry plants purchased from the University of Idaho with funds from the BAER Emergency Stabilization Fund.

If 50 percent of the plants survive, this project will be considered successful.

Read more about their efforts:

 

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Huckleberry Bars

Posted August 8, 2016 By sandy

If you’ve been out picking huckleberries this season and you found your purple treasure, you might want to make these delicious huckleberry bars.

From the Missoulian site:

GREG PATENT: Celebrating Montana’s huckleberry bounty

 

Huckleberry Bars

Huckleberry Bars

Ingredients

    The Almonds
  • 1/2 cup blanched or unblanched whole, sliced or slivered almonds
  • Butter Crust
  • 2 2/3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, refrigerator temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lime or lemon
  • 2 large egg yolks (reserve whites for filling)
  • Ice water, as needed
  • Filling
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 5 cups huckleberries, fresh or frozen
  • Streusel Topping
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, refrigerator temperature

Instructions

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter or coat with cooking spray a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan.
  2. To measure flour for this recipe, dip dry measuring cups into the flour container, fill to overflowing, and level with a metal spatula. Better yet, weigh the flour.
  3. For the almonds, put the nuts into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process about 30 seconds or until the nuts are finely ground. Don’t over-process of the nuts will turn pasty. Set aside.
  4. For the crust, cut the cold butter into tablespoon-size pieces. Put the metal blade in the work bowl of a food processor and add the flour, butter, salt, sugar, and zest. Process about 10 seconds until the dry ingredients are the texture of coarse meal. Put the egg yolks into a 1-cup glass measure with pouring spout and combine them with a fork. Add ice water to bring the volume to the 1/2-cup line and mix with the fork. Start the food processor and add the liquid through the feed tube in a steady stream, taking about 10 seconds. Stop the machine. Scrape the work bowl, and continue processing until the dough gathers into 2 or more large lumps, about 20 seconds. Dump the dough onto your work surface and press the lumps together. (Dough may be used immediately or wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days).
  5. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring about 19- x 14-inches. Don’t be concerned about rough edges; they’ll be trimmed away later. Set your rolling pin on a short end of the dough and carefully roll the dough around the rolling pin. Unroll the pastry so that it rests on the rim of the jelly-roll pan, covering the pan completely. Fit the dough loosely in the prepared pan, making sure it reaches snugly into all corners without stretching. Trim off excess dough with a small sharp knife. (Use scraps to make cookies, if you wish).
  6. For the filling, sprinkle the almonds evenly over the bottom of the crust. In a small bowl, whip the whites until they hold stiff peaks but look moist. Put the huckleberries into a medium bowl. Add the beaten whites and fold them with the huckleberries using a large rubber spatula. Spread the berries evenly over the almonds. There will be a thin layer of fruit, about the depth of 1 huckleberry.
  7. For the streusel, put the flour, sugar, and salt into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Cut the cold butter into tablespoon-size pieces and add them to the work bowl. Process 20 to 30 seconds until the streusel is the consistency of fine crumbs. Spread evenly over the huckleberries without packing down.
  8. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the edges of the crust are well browned and the topping is golden. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars.
  9. Makes about 40 bars or 20 larger servings.
http://wildhuckleberry.com/2016/08/08/huckleberry-bars/

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Huckleberry Picking Reports

Posted August 5, 2016 By sandy

With the dismal huckleberry crop last year, many pickers are finding the 2016 crop to be much more promising.

Reports of huckleberry sightings (and picking) are coming in from all over the Montana, Idaho and Wyoming Rocky Mountain Region.Huckleberry Picking Reports

Here is a handful of these reports from the folks out picking this summer:

2016 huckleberry crop looking better than last year

A wetter spring appears to have boosted this year’s huckleberry crop, according to local buyers who are breathing a sigh of relief after last year’s dismal, drought-stricken harvest.

“Last year was a disaster,” said Peggy Atchley, an employee at Eva Gates Homemade Preserves in Bigfork. “We’ve gotten a couple good-sized batches of berries. … I think we’ll have a pretty good late season as long as we get a day or two of moisture.”

The family-owned jam and preserve company recently has been getting most of its berries from the Libby area, she added, as the berry-producing areas around the Flathead started ripening earlier than usual and are already beginning to transition to the middle elevations, where the popular fruit still is green.

Last year’s shortage predictably drove up the prices paid by huckleberry processors, but while the per-pound cost for the raw ingredient has dropped this summer, Atchley said they’re still paying “premium prices.”

Another report:

Favorite fruit ripening in hills around Bozeman

One thing that does seem apparent is the relationship between the size of the plant and its berries to the amount of moisture available in a given environment. Foragers in the Bozeman area may find success seeking patches of huckleberries in drainages or along mountain streams. If you find plants with green berries, head downhill, otherwise keep working uphill until you find a patch with ripe berries.

While huckleberries are prized by foragers, they are also an important food source for other animals. Black and grizzly bears feed voraciously on huckleberries during the late summer and foragers would be wise to carry bear spray while collecting.

“Nobody would admit to themselves or to anyone else that they are risking life and limb to pick huckleberries, but bear encounters are a genuine risk,” Pony-based author Thomas Elpel wrote in “Foraging the Mountain West.”

For those foragers willing to brave bears, steep mountain slopes and purple fingers, the rewards are many. From huckleberry pancakes to huckleberry pie, the fruit packs a punch of local flavor.

And our last report:

Take advantage of good huckleberry crop

Maybe I don’t totally live off the land, but we do eat a lot of what nature has to offer. … Last week while backpacking we really got into the huckleberries and thimbleberries. There is a good crop this year. I’d advise you to get out and pick some.

While backpacking or camping I love to put them in my oatmeal in the morning. They add a new dimension to your breakfast. The problem is, the first 20 minutes I eat all that I pick! Last week I had a buddy (Fredy Riehl) out from New Jersey and he said forget the saving and ate all of them as fast as he could pick them.

Another thing that I like to do is to add them to my water bottle. Over the course of a backpacking trip plain ole water can get pretty bland as the only drink for three meals, so adding berries to your water bottle turns it into a flavored drink.

 

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