Getting ready for huckleberry season

It’s spring and as I sit here writing this post, the rain is falling and everything starting to turn green and the trees are starting their bloom.  I am getting anxious for summer.  Time for fishing, camping and yes, hiking through the woods hunting for huckleberries.  I thought this might be the perfect time of the year to make sure that we have the supplies for these trips to the mountains.  Here is a list of supplies that I feel are a must for a successful, safe huckleberry outing. If you would like to purchase any of the items below, check them out at The Huckleberry Basket Store.

ItemDescription
Igloo Cooler Set

Igloo cooler set

This is a great set which will serve many purposes. I would recommend using the large cooler for transporting home. The smaller one would be great for putting berries in as you pick them. The larger would be gret to pack snack to your destination and pack all your huckleberries back home in
Arctic Ice Cooler Pack

Arctic Ice Cooler Pack

These are Arctic Ice cold packs. I would recommend a minimum of 2-3 of these for the 38 qt cooler above. Line the bottom of the cooler with them to keep your items cold all day. These are not the standard "blue" packs you see in the stores. Also, unless you want stuff to freeze, make sure you get the Alaska series instead of the Tundra series.
Bull Frog Sunscreen

Great water resistant sunscreen

Sunscreen is always a necessity when hiking. Bulfrog spray has always been our choice. It works really well even when through sweat and water. The best thing about this spray is it's one of the easiest to applying.
Idaho Atlas & Gazetter

Atlas & Gazetter

A good detailed map that includes mountain roads is always helpful.
Bear Spray

Bear Spray

Running into bears is a possibility. They love huckleberries too! Bear Spray will help slow a bear down in the event of an attack. I hope you never have to use it but I hope even more that if you need it, you have it. For information on what to do in the event of an attack check out our post Huckleberries and Bears
Huckleberry Rakes

Huckleberry Rakes

For those interested in using a huckleberry rake, these will help increase your harvest. For more information and to purchase, please visit huckleberryrakes.com Please review its proper use and be responsible please.

Huckleberry Rake Controversy

Huckleberry Picking Methods

As the popularity of the huckleberry grows and the demand for them increase, the more pickers you will see out and about.  Picking berries can be a tedious task to say the least.  Where there is a monotonous task, there will be someone with ingenuity to create a tool to make the task easier and faster.  This is where the advent of the berry rake began.  As with all tools, there comes responsibility.  Unfortunately, where there are humans involved, there comes moments of irresponsibility. This is where the controversy of the berry rake begins.

Though there are an abundance of plants in North Idaho, I have read many posts that indicate thinning stands in other areas of the northwest including Oregon and Washington are few and far between.  I cannot tie the reason for the diminishing stands directly to the berry rake but wonder if they could have played a role in the problem.  Not the rake itself but the rake in the hands of the wrong person.

From what I have read, it can take up to 5 years for a stand to mature and produce a significant amount of fruit.  The stems are thin and can be brittle.  The leaves can fall off with little more effort than it takes for the fruit to come off the plant.  Improper use of the berry rake can tear leaves and break branches.  I have heard stories of irresponsible users ripping entire plants out of the ground.  This is the type of behavior that can cause irreversible damage to a huckleberry stand.

Many folks use the rake so they can pick a large number of berries in a short amount of time.  A quick search on craigslist, I found huckleberries going for anywhere from $30/gallon to $20/quart.  Locally, there are individuals that make a living off nature.  Whether it be from gold panning, selling firewood or picking berries, this is there way of life.  The rake increases productivity for them which puts more money for them to live.  I commend them for this lifestyle because in general, I find that many of these folks have a greater respect for the environment.  Nature’s sustainability is a factor in their livelihood.

I personally hand pick berries.  I enjoy going with family and friends, often competing to see who can pick the most or largest berries.  I find this a common past time for most pickers in general.  I understand the delicate nature of the huckleberry bush.  I choose to hand pick over using a rake because I try to cause as little negative impact on the bushes as I can.  I am not here to pass judgment on those that use the rake or recommend their use.  I personally weigh on the side of caution.  If there is the slightest chance that I will have a negative impact on the huckleberry stand by using rake, I choose not to.

My one recommendation is that each of you make your own judgment.  Do your research on the rake before you do.  Make yourself aware of the pros and cons.  Determine your end goal; why you are picking.  Is it for profit or for self-indulgence?  That could be the answer for you there.  I will leave you with these thoughts: Leave as little impact on nature.  If you use the rake, use it responsibly.  Follow the old adage “pack out what you pack in”.  In other words, take your litter home with you and dispose of it properly.  Let’s try to preserve these wonderful fruit baring plants so our children and grandchildren can enjoy them in the future.

What are Huckleberries? Where do I find Huckleberries?

The fruit itself looks very similar to a blueberry. The huckleberry is a deciduous or evergreen shrub.  Hucklbeberry is the common name for two different plant species: Vaccinium Parvifolium and Gaylussacia.  The plant grows to about 2- 3 feet tall and thrives in damp acidic soil.  They usually produces ripe, ready to pick fruit between the months of July and August.  Here in North Idaho, they are found at elevations between 2000 and 11000 ft.  They are not commercially grown so picking by hand is how it is done.  If you do not live in a region where you can pick them yourself, it is possible to purchase online if in season.  Out of season here, they are running $30-$40 per gallon frozen.  I don’t think that price has varied much over the last few years.

Huckleberries have a unique sweet taste.  I don’t know anyone that hasn’t taken a liking to them after their first bite.  My dad visited once and after his first huckleberry shake, he went everyday to get one until the day he headed back home.  The fruit can be frozen and used later.  I love them in pancakes.  You can use them like most fruits to make jams, cobblers, pies and syrups.  The best way to eat them is sneaking a few in your mouth right off the plant while picking them.  This does however reduce the amount of berries you get to take home.

 

Visit our post Picking wild huckleberries in the Inland Northwest for more information on finding wild huckleberries.

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