Hustling for Huckleberries
Have you met the Oregon huckleberry? We’ve got 11 different species in the state, so if you’re unacquainted, it’s about time you were introduced.
Huckleberries grow on sunny slopes at high elevations and often come up in areas hit by fire. Difficult to cultivate, they are mostly available only in the wild variety — handpicked (that means you) in the mountains and forests during the late summer and early fall. About that time you’ll see the Oregon huckleberry appearing on menus around the state as chefs take advantage of its smoky and sweet flavor.
Compared to the abundant and easy to cultivate blueberry, huckleberries are hard to find, challenging to pick and fragile, so they don’t travel very well. Colors range from pink to purple to blue, and they’ll turn your hands and fingertips red and stain your clothes. Why bother, you might be asking at this point? Once you pop one in your mouth, you’ll forget you ever asked.
Where to pick: Try the Mt. Hood National Forest, Malheur National Forest, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and Willamette National Forest. Call the ranger district office for current information on good berry patches.
When: Berry season can be fickle, depending on Oregon weather. In cooler summers, the season can come on more slowly and last longer. August and September are usually good times to pick, but call ahead to increase your odds.
What to take: Take water, sunscreen, a hat, snacks, a small container for dropping berries into and a larger one for emptying into. And take a friend! It’s fun to pick and chat. Kids love berry picking, too, and they can eat as many as they like.
How to use them: Huckleberries make great jam, ice cream and pie. You can also simply wash and freeze them to used throughout the year in smoothies, on cereal or in pancakes. Try a delicious huckleberry pancake recipe from Mother’s Bistro & Bar in Portland as well as a special mustard recipe from the chef at Timberline Lodge.
Special events: Check out the Mt. Hood Huckleberry Festival and Barlow Trail Days, Aug.26-28
About the Author: Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.
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