Pacific Northwest Gold

No, it is not the gold rush.   However, it is a rush this time of year to be some of the first people to head up into the mountains to pick handfuls of juicy blue, red and purple flavor.   At $35.00 – $40.00 per gallon, the elusive huckleberry is almost equivalent to gold and almost as difficult to find.

There are at least 12 different species of huckleberries and they are chock full of antioxidants; high in vitamin C, A, B, potassium and a good source of iron.  And…they are free.  But, you have to be prepared to trek up into the mountains to forage for them since they typically grow in the wild above 3,000 feet elevation. The berries usually grow on hillsides and there is a lot of brush and fallen trees to navigate through to find a patch of berries.   Once you find a good patch, you keep that knowledge to yourself.  People will go back to the same patches year after year and they don’t want other people finding it and picking all of the berries.  Smile.

Hubs heading up to pick

People take their huckleberry patch very seriously.   It is bordering on rude to ask someone where they got their berries and they will give you an evasive answer at best.  When we first moved to the area my husband was talking with a colleague about picking berries.   He was fascinated by the idea  and wanted to find out how to do it and where to go.  He asked to go with her to pick several times and she said she could not take him.  After pestering her enough, she finally said she would take him but he would have to be blindfolded for the entire trip up there and back.  She was not kidding; huckleberry patches are that coveted. 

Eventually we went picking with some family members and we were hooked. It has become a yearly trek for us and now that we are retired, we can go up during the week when the camping spots are more available.  We usually pack up our camper and haul our 4-wheelers up into the mountains to spend a few days picking and enjoying the quiet.  We like to go up into the Coeur d’Alene National forest.  That is all I can say about our patch because, if I told you any more, I would have to kill you. 

Tributary to Deception Creek

These delicious berries make wonderful muffins, jams, pies and cobblers.  I hope their health benefits outweigh the high carb foods we like to eat them in.  We like to treat ourselves to huckleberry daiquiris a couple times a year. Lower carb but then you have to factor in the alcohol.  Geez.  But my favorite thing to do is make a huckleberry sauce.  It can be used over pancakes, crepes or a good quality vanilla ice cream. 

Here is a recipe I use that came from Hill’s Resort at Priest Lake (the mecca of huckleberries). 

               1 gallon huckleberries

               4-5 cups sugar

In a large pan, mix the berries and sugar together and cook for about 5 minutes after it comes to a simmer. 

Mix together:

½ cup water with ¾ cup cornstarch. 

Slowly add to the hucks, stirring well.  Cook until ruby red and it thickens (sauce will thicken as it cools).  Add 1 Tbs. lemon juice.

  Freezes well.

Happy Picking!