Like a blueberry…sort of.

You’ve heard of the popular children’s book “Blueberries for Sal”? Well, this is about “Huckleberries for Michael”. My husband grew up in and around Missoula Montana, an area of the country known for huckleberries. These small blue fruits, related to blueberries, have defied cultivation, and have a huge following in areas of the country where you can find them. They currently go for about $40 per gallon at area farmers markets, primarily because it can take two people way more than an hour to pick a gallon of huckleberries. These sweet fruits make you work for it, no question. 

When Michael was growing up, he and his Mom used to go out huckleberry picking, freezing the bounty for use in huckleberry pancakes and muffins throughout the winter. One of our earliest wild food adventures was huckleberry picking in Montana before we were married. Now that we’ve moved back into huckleberry country, trying to locate a place to go picking was a clear priority. Except that good huckleberry patches are a closely guarded secret, kind of like where to find morel mushrooms.

That said, while cleaning out an old shed on our property, we found a hand written sign saying “Fresh Huckleberries For Sale” and an assortment of small wooden berry boxes. We knew that there must be some bushes nearby. And there are, though we have several additional potential sites to check out.

These caterpilllars, unidentified, were everywhere on the bushes. They didn’t seem to be doing much damage.

As you may have guessed, I am the “foodie” in the family, though Michael readily admits that I’ve “ruined” him from his bachelor diet of frozen pizza, ramen, and canned soup. He’s a good sport, always game to go along, but it is me who plans trips around where to eat and insists that we go to pick peaches NOW because there may not be any by next weekend. So I was a bit surprised with Michael’s enthusiasm for going huckleberry picking. He was planning his weekends around when the fruit might be ripe.

Not a huge haul, but enough for a taste of the season.

And finally, we did indeed go huckleberry picking. The crop this year, at least where we were, was pretty sparse. We were able to pick almost a quart. Enough for some pancakes and muffins. I wasn’t even going to write about it, as the pickings, so to speak, were so slim. That was before I caught my husband standing in the kitchen with his nose in the jar of the last of the fruit. He was inhaling deeply and had this dreamy look and a contented smile on his face. The smell, he said, reminded him of some of the best times of his childhood. He simply loves huckleberries.

Huckleberry bushes as far as the eye can see, and one happy husband.

And THAT is what I love about food. It’s not just about sustaining our bodies. It’s about sustaining our spirits, about getting outside on an end-of-summer day with the dogs, about remembering times when we felt safe and joyous as only a child can be in anticipation of huckleberry pancakes.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2010, where our fingers are stained purple with huckleberry juice and we’re not tellin where we found them.

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