Do you know what a huckleberry is? (Its actually the state fruit of Idaho. Who knew??)
They are very similar to blueberries, but they are absolutely different in flavor. Most people don't know what a huckleberry is, or they interchange it with a blueberry. Unless you are from the Pacific Northwest, odds are you have never heard of them or you don't really know the difference. According to Wikipedia, technically, blueberries have numerous tiny seeds and huckleberries have about ten seeds. The fact that Wikipedia notes that as a big distinction baffles me. I love berries. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries.... I buy them every chance I get. The difference in seed content in blueberries v. huckleberries never occurred to me but what I did notice, obviously, is the taste. Huckleberries have a distinctively different taste and smell than blueberries. Oh they smell incredible! I can't even begin to describe it, but they are fantastic. $12.00 fantastic (I saw frozen huckleberries at the Co-op for that price with my own eyes). Don't get me wrong, I love blueberries and I am not knocking them, but huckleberries are a completely different fruit. Wild if you will...
They grow on the mountain sides in this area. Yes the mountain sides. Its not a walk in the park to go pick them. It takes for.ev.er. First you drive up into the mountains. You take some random Forest Service road and hope for luck to find them. In the event you find them, you are in the middle of nowhere usually with one side of the road going steeply uphill and the other side going steeply downhill.
You literally have to forage through the bushes and trees on the mountain side to get to them. And then when you find them, they aren't in large bundles together. Its one, here and there. You climb up, or down, the mountainside like a goat (as my mom would say) holding on to bushes and branches to stop yourself from falling. Luck is on your side if you find a huckleberry patch on a flat stretch of land. Oh, and they are a favorite of bears so you have to be aware at all times.
I went huckleberrying about a week ago with my mom and nephew Daniel. We went up about an hour and half outside of town (almost halfway to McCall). We drove one unproductive forest service road and tried a second before we were successful. We found a spot, found some berries and decided to have at it. Instantly, my mother disappeared over a hill on the mountain side. Come to find out, she found a huge patch on the mountain side inclining upward. Dan and I picked, chatted and eventually separated. Ultimately, he wound up with my mom in the big patch and I shuffled from small patch to small patch trying not to lose my footing or my bowl of huckleberries. I came close to a brutal tumble a couple of times.
As I worked myself closer to them, I heard my mom yell. She fell. She didn't grab any branches like she normally does and took a nasty fall twisting her knee in an unnatural fashion. We had only been picking about an hour but I wasn't taking any chances and decided it was time to wrap it up and take her to the ER. Especially since I could tell she was in pain, even after ice and ibuprofen. Luckily for her, she only had a partial tear of the ACL on her inner knee, no surgery required. (I told you it was no walk in the park.) As she says, she can't believe she fell because she used to climb all over the mountain side like a goat (for the record she does not resemble a goat). At least she didn't spill her huckleberries when she fell! She considers them precious prize!
After an hour of picking, the three of us accumulated about 3 cups. Mom got most of them because she found the good patch. This was our bounty:
You wash them and the water turns a faint purple color. Look.
So even though huckleberrying was cut short, I am so thankful my mom wasn't injured worse. The wilderness out in these parts is nothing to take lightly... even if you do consider yourself a goat.
Huckleberries are a definite PAB to living here. If you come across these divine berries, I suggest you to try them, or anything made from them. Around these parts you can get outstanding jelly, jam, syrup, candy, lotion, and even vodka (which I have yet to try, but I will).
Expand your horizons, if you haven't already, and go for a huckleberry if you get the chance.
P.S. My sister Kerree asked me to save her some of the huckleberries we picked, she is so LUCKY that I love her!!