I was listening to a local radio station the other morning.  The DJs for the morning show posed the question, what are some of your favorite things that are free.  They came up with answers like free food samples at the grocery store, a campfire, and listening to their radio station (of course).    I imagine young people might add a free round of drinks at the bar.  When I asked Mr. U, he said playing with the grandkids.  Good one.  Since I could not steal his idea, I came up with watching the sunset, hugs, and foraging for food. 

Foraging: “To wander in search of food.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Last week we loaded up the camper and headed to the mountains to forage for huckleberries.  Picking Pacific Northwest Gold is a yearly tradition for us. This year we stayed two nights at a very small campground up near the Fernan Saddle.  That is all I can tell you because people never reveal their favorite picking spots!  We were totally disconnected and off the grid for three days.  The only sounds were the rushing river next to our campsite and the occasional bird and squirrel.   No ringing phone or dings alerting me to a new text message. No Instagram or FB.

It is a little unnerving to not be able to reach out for help with a quick phone call.   When we got there, I considered every possible bad case scenario that could happen up in the woods without help being just a phone call away:

  • One of us has a heart attack (we are not young anymore).
  • One of us trips and gets a broken leg trying to maneuver around the bushes and logs (we are definitely not as agile as we used to be).
  • We get attacked by a bear (a black bear eats up to 30,000 berries in a single day).
  • I step on a hornet’s nest and get swarmed by bees.  (This really happened last year, and it was scary…and painful.  Grateful that I am not allergic.)

Finally, after considering every possible scenario, I settled into the isolation and quiet.   Being disconnected forces us to sit with our thoughts and not be distracted by picking up our phones constantly.    And that is healing. 

Foraging for huckleberries is slow and tedious.  The most efficient way is to tie a bucket to your belt or hang it down from your neck so that you have both hands free to pick.  This was an abundant year of large berries, and the picking was relatively easy.  Within a few hours we were able to head back to camp with full buckets and stained hands.  That is the best part, going back to camp to relax after a successful day of foraging.  A cold drink and dinner never tasted so good.  I would have to agree with the DJ; a campfire is one of the best things in life that is free.

There is something about foraging through the woods that takes us back to our ancestors.  It is primal and real.  It is satisfying in a way that running to the grocery store is not.  And it is much cheaper than a trip to the grocery store.  I would like to learn to forage for other edibles in the woods, such as mushrooms.  Morels are a popular mushroom that grows in the wild in our neck of the woods.  However, you have to know what you are looking for.  When my brother was in college, his botany professor took their small lab class on a field trip up in the woods to identify and pick some of the mushrooms they were learning about.  After a day of picking, this well-educated group sat around the campfire and cooked up some of their mushrooms to have with dinner.  I will not include all the gory details but suffice it to say that they all ended up in the ER that night.  So much for the power of education.

And then when you get home…

Picking the huckleberries is only half of the battle.  Once you get them home, they have to be cleaned and frozen.  The best way to freeze any type of berry is to clean them and then lay them out on a tray in the freezer.  Once they are frozen you can pour them into freezer bags and then put the bags in the freezer for future use.  This way they are easy to measure out.  They pour out of the bag like small marbles instead of being frozen into one large clump that you have to chip away at. 

Huckleberries are a bit tart, so a little sugar helps to balance that out and something creamy is a sublime combination with them.  Don’t worry about the extra sugar and cream you put with them because huckleberries are considered a superfood. They are chock full of nutrients and are considered one of the most powerful antioxidant foods.

Some of my favorite ways to eat huckleberries, or any berry:

  • Sprinkle berries on vanilla & honey Greek yogurt for breakfast.
  • Make a huckleberry sauce to spread over a cheesecake.
  • Sprinkle over good vanilla ice cream.
  • We make dessert pizza in the pizza oven by spreading the rolled-out dough with a butter, brown sugar and cinnamon base.  Then add the huckleberry sauce and pop it in the pizza oven.  After it comes out of the oven and cools a little, add whip cream on top.  This is a crowd favorite when we have pizza parties.
  • Make a huckleberry sauce to put in crepes or on top of waffles.
  • Make berry cobbler when you need a quick dessert.
  • Add them to muffins or pancakes. Huckleberry pancakes are a must for us when we are up camping.
  • Whip up a batch of huckleberry daquiris.
  • Make huckleberry jam.
  • Create a huckleberry cream pie (recipe below).

I got this huckleberry cream pie recipe from my friend Kim, over 30 years ago.  It is much easier to make than traditional pie and is a cool, satisfying summer dessert.  If you do not have access to huckleberries, I have made it with raspberries.  Either way, it is a refreshing slice of heaven.

Kim’s Berry Cream Pie


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Mix together, pat into a 9 x 11 inch glass cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. You want to use a clear glass pan so that you can see the lovely layers when it is finished.

Berry layer:

Mix together:

  • 5 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 cup sugar

Gradually add:

  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2-3 cups berries

Boil the above for 3 minutes.  Spread over the crust.


  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup sour cream
  • large cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Cool Whip for consistency

Mix topping ingredients together and spread over cooled berry layer.  Refrigerate and enjoy!

The lavender out in our yard was ready to be picked last week so I gathered a basket full, tied them in bundles and hung them upside down to dry.  I am not a fan of lavender in my food, but I love the smell and they make a great filling for sachet bags to give as little gifts. We have also been picking green beans, zucchini, cucumbers and raspberries from the garden. Hum… I am wondering if it counts as foraging if you get it out of your yard or garden???

Foraging hits my retirement Trifecta because it is fun, healthy and inexpensive.  What are your favorite things that are free?