When we moved to the Idaho panhandle in the summer of 1998, I heard people talking about huckleberries. I had never tasted a huckleberry, but I love berries of all kinds, so I was intrigued.
“You say they grow wild? I’d love to pick some. Where can I find them?”
“Oh, they grow all over. Just go up in the mountains. They’re everywhere!”
“Okay, but… I don’t know what a huckleberry bush looks like. I’m not even sure what a huckleberry itself looks like. Could you be a little more specific?”
“They look kinda like blueberries. Just go up anywhere. You’ll see ’em!”
Apparently “more specific” was asking too much, as I later found out.
Having a secret huckleberry spot is a big deal around here. Most people won’t tell exactly where they pick berries because they don’t want others to go and pick them before they get to them.
Huckleberries are time-consuming to pick. They don’t grow in clusters, but rather along the stem. And they only grow in the wild.
I learned that they can’t be cultivated. They reproduce by means of an intricate root system linking one bush to the next, so I guess it’s not possible to transplant them or grow them from seed.
They are also delicious. Juicy and very flavorful.
Which is why they sell for upwards of $50 a gallon. After spending an entire morning picking berries to finally get a gallon, I decided I wouldn’t even be willing to sell them for that.
However, I’m not reluctant to share my berry picking spots. In fact, I’ll even provide a map for you:
Now you know exactly where to go, don’t you? Ha.
We couldn’t make heads or tails of that map, even when we were standing in front of it staring at the “YOU ARE HERE” arrow.
Seriously, though, if you come see in me in late July or August, and you’re interested in picking huckleberries I do know of several spots, and I will be happy to take you there.
Well, we talked about making huckleberry milkshakes, but I ended up making huckleberry muffins. And yes, you can just eat them.
Recipe adapted from The Huckleberry Book by ‘Asta Bowen.
- 2 cups flour (I used Wheat Montana Prairie Gold)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup fresh huckleberries
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons raw sugar for topping
Stir dry ingredients together. Wash and drain huckleberries so they are still damp. Add huckleberries to dry ingredients and stir gently until they are all separated and coated with flour mixture. Add liquid ingredients. Stir just enough to dampen all ingredients. Fill greased or papered muffin tins. Top each muffin with 1/3 teaspoon raw sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes. Makes about a dozen muffins.