For many years, my family and I take one weekend day in early Fall, and drive up to Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountain Range to pick wild huckleberries. It’s always a careful guessing game, as you don’t want to get there too early or late in the season and miss those elusive purple gems. We decided this past Sunday was the perfect day for it, so we loaded up the car with a picnic lunch, the dog, and plenty of empty pails for our bounty.
There’s something so refreshing about escaping, even for a few hours, to such a lush mountain environment. The city slowly fades away, and the only task at hand is the slow gathering of berries. I often imagine the original people of this region, and how crucial nature was to their survival.
The Latin name for this berry is Vaccinium Parvifolium, and it is common from Southeastern Alaska, all the way down the West Coast to Central California. We’re lucky here in The Northwest to have such an abundance of the berry so close at hand.
The Native Americans of this region put the whole plant into rotation, with the berries being made into stews or sauces, the bark and leaves turned into a tea for cold remedies, and the branches woven into brooms. In addition, the berries were sometimes used as fishing bate, because of the resemblance to salmon eggs. What a range of innovation for one singular berry plant!
Patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to this sort of gathering. The berries are quite tiny, and it takes hours to fill up small pails. We use the berries throughout the winter, freezing small amounts into individual ziplock bags for easy access.
One of our very favorite uses for the berries, is a sauce that can be poured over local salmon; a true Northwest meal. It’s quite simple to make. Simply add all ingredients to a sauce pan, bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn to low and simmer until the sauce has a slightly thick consistency. Enjoy over fish, pork, or duck.
– 1 and a half cups of wild red huckleberries
– 1/4 cup of red wine
– 1/3 cup of sugar
– 1 tbsp of balsamic
– 1 tbsp of lemon juice
– a pinch of cinnamon
Enjoy! Any favorite recipes for gathered fruit in your repertoire? Share with us below, we’d love to hear about it!