Out here in our "neck of the woods" we have huckleberries. And it is my understanding that they only grow in the northwest regions of the United States, as well as across the border in Canada. I have heard some people liken them to a blueberry .... well, they taste absolutely nothing like a blueberry. They have their very own distinct flavor that just can't be beat. Being small in size, it takes a lot more huckleberries to fill a gallon bag than it would if we were filling it with blueberries.
On a recent camping trip, the camp host of our campground, told us that she had heard there were huckleberries up a certain road. As soon as my husband heard that, he knew that I would want to be up on that mountain picking huckleberries. I have grown up with huckleberries being a part of my life, and whenever I have the opportunity to pick some, that is where I will be.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with huckleberries, here is what these little beauties look like on the bush:
They grow on bushes, and not tall bushes that you can easily stand in front of picking from. But the bushes are just the right height that you have to bend over to get the berries, causing your back to complain from time to time. But then there is also the option of getting them on the steep mountain side where one has to precariously balance with one foot on the uphill side, and the other on the downhill side being very careful not to tumble down the hill.
The other thing about huckleberries is that they aren't typically conveniently located on the main highway where you can just pull your car off to the side of the road, and leisurely go picking. You have to usually drive up a steep mountain one lane dirt road. And because you are climbing up the mountain, off to one side of the car will always be a steep drop off with no guard rail. At times like this, you always hope you don't meet anyone coming down the hill because turn-outs are few, and there is hardly enough room for one car, let alone two cars. You pretty much have to drive until you feel like you are on top of the world:
When you have reached this point, you know that there must be huckleberries nearby. Once a good patch is found, everyone bails out of the car, and the picking begins. In year's past I have passed out buckets to members of my family in hopes of coming home with gallons and gallons. This year I gave everyone a plastic cup. That helped them to pick at ease not thinking that I really expected them to each somehow fill a gallon bucket in one afternoon. Realistically, you just can't come home from one afternoon of picking with gallons and gallons. It is hard work, the berries are small, and then there is the eating factor. One can simply not keep themselves from picking a handful of berries, and just eating them on the spot.
The other thing about huckleberries to keep in mind while picking them is that where there are huckleberries there are bears. Huckleberries are a favorite snack for bears, and so we try to keep up the conversation and laughing to just politely let the bears know that we are in their neck of the woods. One of the patches we were picking from actually had a game trail right through the middle of it. So I knew it was a favorite spot for our furry friends. We saw traces of bears, and even saw bear fur stuck to some of the bushes.
All of the adventure was well worth it, as we came home with nearly one gallon of berries. I washed them, and popped them in the freezer, and we will now ration them throughout the upcoming year. And ration them I do as they sell for $50.00 a gallon for someone that wants to avoid all of the adventure and just buy them from someone locally.