I have projects that keep me busy and forgetful. I’ve missed two posts in the last week and I am thoroughly embarrassed. I’d like to blame it on all the adventures I am having but there just aren’t any good excuses – my brain is just full.
The benefit to you is that I am going to merge what would have been yesterday’s post with today’s. Not sure they would have stood alone anyway.
This past weekend, I went up into the Clearwater forest with my mom and her partner. We camped overnight and hilarity ensued. But while we were up there, we picked wild strawberries and huckleberries.
Wild strawberries are easy to identify as plants go. However, finding the actual strawberries is less easy. We have spent years seeing the plants. They are prolific in mountainous and coastal areas in the Pacific Northwest. I would guess they are prolific elsewhere but I have no actual experience outside of this area. The leaves can be mistaken for tiny wild rose but there’s a chance if you find one, you will find the other. The trick is that wild rose grows up and wild strawberry grows out (usually with long red runners/stems).
The fruit is tiny. What we picked was often in the same size range as our huckleberries. The biggest one I found was about 1/2 inch long. So why would you waste your time on such tiny berries? You’ll never pick enough to do anything but snack on them but that first real taste of a perfectly ripe strawberry will have you addicted.
Those tiny berries have more flavor than any other strawberry I have ever eaten. They taste like candy. One little bite fills your mouth with flavor. Trust me, you find one and you will be looking for more every time you are in the woods (or coastal lands).
They are easy to identify but we often start seeing the plants when we go mushrooming in May. They are most likely visible earlier but we don’t go out before then. The berries start ripening in July. It takes a little work to find your first one but after that, you’ll start to see more berries. You won’t have a huge harvest, ever, but what a snack and experience.
Huckleberries are a different story. We’ve not had a ton of luck with huckleberries until this year. We found the perfect spot for us and it seems to be off the beaten path enough that we’ll have no problem getting berries later. The berries are not completely ripe yet so our yield was not huge.
I will be honest, there was a time when I didn’t get huckleberries. I didn’t like the way they tasted. However, I’m not really sure of those experiences since I didn’t actually pick the berries. They look like blueberries and taste close to them. Not exactly and I’m not sure I could explain why. The berries are not very large either (one needs to note that most of the berries we buy in the store have been bred to produce larger berries).
Picking is not like going to the farm. The terrain is not always friendly and the bushes are often quite close together so there is no place to sit. Did I mention that these bushes are not very tall either. If you find one bigger than 2 feet, you may have to re-examine the bush to make sure you have a huckleberry.
Is it worth it? Of course. While it’s a lot of work, the exercise alone is great for you. However, the nutritional value is where you get your punch. These are organically grown in soil that has been fairly untouched by human hands. There is a fair amount of logging activity in the huckleberry regions but the actual dirt has not been depleted or altered for farming. That means all the nutrients are still there. All those macro and micro nutrients they are still discovering are filling up those nuggets of sweetness. How can you beat that?
I will share a tip with you. We discovered that if you pick the berries almost ripe, they will ripen on your counter top. It was a small scale experiment that was successful and currently I am working on a larger scale. I haven’t decided what I am going to do with my harvest. I didn’t pick all that many since we have more time to pick (since they weren’t that ripe on the bushes).
I hope this encourages you to go out and look for berries in the woods. Huckleberries are a high altitude berry but there are plenty at all altitudes.