If you’re serious about eating and preserving food in season, you’ll want to become familiar with what’s growing wild in your area. One of my favorite annual ‘forages’ is for huckleberries. In south-eastern BC, we have numerous species of these berries, reminiscent of wild blueberries. Where we camped last weekend, I came across at least four varieties co-existing. Huckleberries tend to be a bit smaller than blueberries with a tangier, fuller flavor. Even while being tangy, they’re still nice and sweet.
Huckleberries grow in acidic soil in wooded sub-alpine areas like the clearing shown at right. Early in the season (like mid-July) we’ll find them at low elevations, not far up the mountain roads from town. As the weeks go by, they ripen farther up the mountain. This means that we’ll often go picking more than once over the course of the season. It always pays to keep a watchful eye for bears in a good berry patch. I’m not about to get in an argument–if the bear is there and wanting the berries, he’s got my permission to go for it!
We weren’t planning to pick berries when we went camping, but it didn’t take Jim long to discover their whereabouts. We picked a cup or so before breakfast the morning after we arrived so that we could have huckleberry pancakes. (I tend to have pancake mix along, just in case.) Mmm, there’s nothing better!
Later in the day and the next day we picked about five pounds of berries, kept them cool, and brought them home. I filled the bucket with water to a couple of inches higher than the berries, as many of the leaves and other scraps of forest debris float to the top. Then I scooped handfuls of berries out, shifted them from hand to hand to make sure each was clean of stems, etc. I spread them out on cookie sheets and popped them in my deep freeze. The next day I loosened them with a metal spatula and bagged them in ziplocs.
Now they’re ready for whatever tasty concoctions we may want over the next twelve months: pancakes, muffins, ice cream topping, pies, and smoothies. Yum!