Picking and Cleaning Huckleberries

Tips for picking huckleberries

So out in the woods, enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful sights. But now you want to take some of these wonderful berries home? Some suggest baggies like zip lock bags. These are fine if you want to make smoothies or milkshakes as a they are fragile and could be damaged in transit. But if you want to leave your options open till you get home, I suggest a hard side cooler of some sort.

Now when you are out picking the berries it is going to be in the hottest part of the season, so putting the warm berries in a cold container will cause them to burst. No rush to cool them off, and don’t worry about cleaning them. In fact the leaves will work well to insulate and cushion the berries until you get home, leave those there!

Tips for cleaning huckleberries

Once you get home, you are ready to clean out the stems, leaves and insects that somehow ended up in your bucket. Everyone that I have gone picking with has their own way to clean them, and I am going to present a few:

The most basic suggesting for cleaning is pouring the berries out on a cookie sheet, and then pick out the berries by hand. This is a very simple process, however it’s a bit time consuming, and asking friends or family for help will shorten your yield!

Another option is to simply dunk the berries into a bucket filled with water. The berries will sink to the bottom and most of the bugs, stems and leaves will float up to the top. This is a great way to clean out the berries, it’s less time consuming, and does a pretty good job at getting them clean. My only complaint about this is it can water-log the berries, and if you toss them right into the freezer you will end up with clumps of berries when it comes time to pulling some out.

My favorite is something that requires a bit of ingenuity. This process is almost like sluicing for gold. You take berries and slide them down an incline, and the basic idea is that the berries will roll down the incline and sticks, stems, and leaves will be left behind.

Tips for storing huckleberries

As for freezing them, simply putting them all in a bag and then in the freezer works well, if you are looking to sell them some places will assume that part of the bag is water if they were cleaned by dunking them.

If you pour out the berries on to a cookie sheet, into a single layer of berries they will freeze faster and not clump up when it comes time to pull some out of the freezer.


Huckleberries and Bears

 (ok, not lions or tigers)

Remember, out in the wilderness, you are out of your element and in the element of other predators.  When hiking, remember to be aware of your surroundings.  In our area there is always a threat from bears, mountain lions, wolves and bobcats.

Bears are a viable threat when encountered.  You have a higher chance of encountering one of these predators when huckleberry picking as this wonderful fruit is a staple to their diet as well.

If you see a bear before he sees you, leave the area quietly and give the bear its space.  Try to retreat downwind to lessen the chance of the bear noticing you.  If the bear has seen you but is still a good distance away, talk normally and wave your hands in the air.  This will give signs that will identify you as human.  Back away and in this instance move upwind so he can get your scent and knows where you are and where you are going.

If the bear shows signs of aggression, do not run and try to retreat slowly.  Bears will often bluff charge you.  This is a defense mechanism designed to let their enemies to back down before actually making the attack.  The last resort if the bear charges and is at a very close range is using pepper spray.  Hopefully this will slow the bear down or stop him from attacking long enough for you to get away.

In the event of an attack:

Grizzy Bear

  1. Description
    1. Medium to dark brown
    2. Distinct hump between shoulders
    3. Average height of 6 to 6 ½ ft
    4. Long claws that can be seen from a distance
    5. Mostly found in Canada but there are populations in western states bordering Canada
  2. Surviving Grizzly attack
    1. Use bear pepper spray
    2. Bears can run up to 30 mph….you can’t so don’t try to outrun one
    3. Drop down to fetal position and cover your neck with your hands
    4. Play dead, when the bear stops playing with you, continue to play dead until you know for sure the animal is gone.  Grizzlies will often wait to make sure their prey will get back up


Black Bear

  1. Description
    1. Black to light blond in color
    2. No hump like the Grizzly
    3. Smaller than grizzlies
    4. Shorter claws than grizzlies
    5. Are the most common in North America populating 41 of the 50 states in the US
  2. Surviving a black bear attack
    1. Use bear pepper spray
    2. Stand your ground and make as much noise as you can.  They are more timid and if you show you mean business, they are more likely to leave you alone.
    3. Black bears have claws that make them excellent climbers….you don’t so don’t try to out climb them
    4. Fight back with anything you have.  Try to hit them in the snout and eyes particularly.  A black bear will usually give up if they see their victim is willing to fight to the death.


Visit our post Preparing for your huckleberry adventure for other tips on a safer huckleberry adventure