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All the noms - huckleberry harvesting tips?  RSS feed

 
Destiny Hagest
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I live in central Montana, down here in a little canyon-esque valley between the Little Belt Mountains. In the northern reaches of the state, huckleberries are a huge thing - people harvest them by the bucket load, but here, they're pretty hard to come by.



Huckleberries seem to prefer a moister climate, and a higher altitude like what you find in the Kalispell region, and down here, we have lot of mountain prairie. However, I have heard talk from some of our more seasoned hikers and explorers that in the higher reaches of the mountains, on the fringes of the forest, there are clumps of huckleberry bushes.

I LOVE huckleberries - seriously, they're like nature's candy. Being in Montana, I could just take a road trip to go get some, but I have a lot of living things that count on me once or twice a day around here, plus a toddler, so it's generally best if I can stay close to home.

So huckleberry harvesting pros, tell me about where you typically find huckleberries. Since I've never successfully foraged for them myself, I'm curious as to what microclimates they tend to cling to, and what parts of the wild they're typically found in.



Yep, that's a lava cake that I topped with teeny tiny wild alpine strawberries there.

We have raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, chokecherries, and currants here, all of which are just damned delicious, and the gooseberry comes close to the sweet succulence of the huckleberry, but just not quite close enough - I'd love to find some in my area if I can, and save as a special treat.
 
r ranson
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Oh wow, those look delicious!

 
Rue Barbie
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When we were kids and visiting in the Midwest, my mom and her sisters would go huckleberry picking. It was fun and they were very good. I now grow blueberries, but they are very tame tasting compared to those little wild gems.

Maybe there is something helpful for you in this older article:

http://fwp.mt.gov/mtoutdoors/HTML/articles/2004/Huckleberries.htm

"Huckleberry Hounds
Sniffing out Montana’s delicious purple gem."
 
Destiny Hagest
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Thank you for that link Rue! And I agree, blueberries are delicious, but many there is just nothing like a fresh huckleberry - gooseberries are the only things I've found to come close.

It's strange, I'm not sure why I don't see hucks in my area - I'm at about 3,700 feet, and frequently go between 5 and 7,000 feet as well (my husband works at a ski hill year round). I wonder what I'm missing? Or rather, what this environment is missing - I'm curious to know if the lakes up in the Flathead region have anything to do with the abundance up there, maybe it's just too dry where I am.
 
Donna Lockey
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Location: Ontario Canada
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My son worked at Silver Star Ski Resort, brush cutting trails in the summer. He found many huckleberry bushes there. This is by Kelowna B.C.
I wonder if the seeds can be harvested and transplanted?
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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I'm inspired to reply more by your strawberry cake than your huckleberry question. Are those teeny tiny strawberries not incredible? We have cultivated varieties and our native groundcover species here, and I swear there's more flavor packed into one of those eraser-sized berries that any larger named variety. They're "nature's candy" for me.

The huckleberries we have here in the wet PNW are mostly red, and while tasty, a little less magical than the blue ones I think you're talking about. That said, I grew up on Alaskan wild blueberries which I'm told are more closely related to blue huckleberries than to cultivated blueberries, and they like moist high-altitude micro-climates. Southcentral AK, where I grew up, is full of alpine bogs, so maybe that's where you should look. Is there anyplace near you that's a little wetter than the surrounding area?

BTW: Any interest in my date-sweetened "chocolate pudding cake" recipe? Like a lava cake, but no refined sugar.
 
Erica Wisner
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Roberta Wilkinson wrote:I'm inspired to reply more by your strawberry cake than your huckleberry question. Are those teeny tiny strawberries not incredible? We have cultivated varieties and our native groundcover species here, and I swear there's more flavor packed into one of those eraser-sized berries that any larger named variety. They're "nature's candy" for me.

The huckleberries we have here in the wet PNW are mostly red, and while tasty, a little less magical than the blue ones I think you're talking about. That said, I grew up on Alaskan wild blueberries which I'm told are more closely related to blue huckleberries than to cultivated blueberries, and they like moist high-altitude micro-climates. Southcentral AK, where I grew up, is full of alpine bogs, so maybe that's where you should look. Is there anyplace near you that's a little wetter than the surrounding area?

BTW: Any interest in my date-sweetened "chocolate pudding cake" recipe? Like a lava cake, but no refined sugar.


YES PLEASE! I would love that recipe. (New thread? post a link here please)

Oregon has several kinds of "huckleberries," in addition to wild and commercial blueberries.
The red ones are what I knew as "mountain huckleberries," which are different from the ones that grow at higher elevations in Montana.

There are also evergreen, black-fruited huckleberries that grow on the Oregon coast, and are a little richer in flavor than the red ones.

Both evergreen hucks and mountain blueberries seem to produce heavily after a fire - about 2 years after.
Ernie used to go out with a flamethrower and torch a few bushes around Mountain Homestead, to encourage heavy production in following years.
This could easily get you in major trouble if it's off your own property, or during a burn ban.
A light singeing is all that's needed - don't fry the main stems, but the ends of the twigs can burn a little bit.

This does NOT work for red huckleberries, however.

Many huckleberries and blueberries are "vaccinium" species, related to lingonberries as well I believe.

-Erica

 
Julia Winter
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You need to visit Paul's Laboratory, then take a trip to where the hucklberries live. We picked so many huckleberries when we were there last August, I made jam!

What impresses me about huckleberries is how they are still delicious even if not perfectly ripe. Blueberries are UCK if not fully ripe, but huckleberries were different.
 
Destiny Hagest
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Roberta Wilkinson wrote:BTW: Any interest in my date-sweetened "chocolate pudding cake" recipe? Like a lava cake, but no refined sugar.


YES! You must share your lava cake recipe!! That picture is my refined sugar filled version, and while delicious, it is extremely guilt inducing.

Those little berries are so incredible! When I was pregnant I harvested the leaves for tea to prepare my uterus for delivery, and of course, wound up plopping my big pregnant self in a patch of them and gobbling them up while I harvested

I must find a really great excuse to go back to the Lab during huckleberry harvest - I'm sure there will be urgent business to attend to that will require my presence
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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Erica, Destiny- pudding cake recipe has been posted: Date Sweetened Chocolate Pudding Cakes

 
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