Huckleberries could be the reason Idaho is called the Gem State. Wild mountain huckleberries are definitely precious edible gems. They are part of the great Uber Garden plan of the Universe. A gift from a higher minded being. Definitely a gift.
Wild huckleberries are so incredibly aromatic it is hard to describe them. If they were a piece of music, they would be Ode to Joy. The wild mountain huckleberry, vaccinium membranaceum, is, in the author’s very humble opinion, one of the most intensely flavored berries in existence. They smell and taste exotic. When they are ripe, they are a purplish red color and are about the size of shelled garden peas….if you are lucky. Many are smaller but they pack so much fruity essence into their very small size, they are worth their weight in gold.
Beg, wheedle or cajole a seasoned Idahoan to take you huckleberrying. Most of the best berry patch locations are held pretty close to the vest, i.e, guarded secret information. If they tell you they’ll probably have to kill you. That said, if you get to go along, if you are not skeered of bears, if you can scamper up a hill or two, and manage to get any in your bucket instead of eating them all, you might come home with a fabulous reward.
I am one lucky lucky girl. A friend of mine went huckleberrying this week. Last night, JP bestowed upon YOURS TRULY, his very humble and adoring friend, a one pint bag of fresh huckleberries!
No one has ever handed me a bag of fresh picked wild huckleberries. Ever. I am almost paralyzed as to what to do with them other than wax poetic over them, smell them every couple of hours, and stare at them. I am thinking huckleberry daiquiris. Or I could make them into a jammy sauce to ladle generously over fresh cheesecake. How about over a warm piece of pound cake? Make that a scoop of French vanilla bean ice cream. JP, I’ll be your huckleberry!
3 tablespoons white rum
3 tablespoons crushed/mashed or pureed huckleberries
a splash of lemon or lime juice (to taste)
1/4 tsp. superfine sugar (start with a little sugar, some berries are sweeter than others)
Shake with ice, and pour into a glass. Some folks like to strain them. I want all the berry goodness.
For more info: U of I Research Center in Sandpoint Idaho. as well as the Western Huckleberry and Bilberry Association in Weippe, ID.