Pick Your Manners: Huckleberry Etiquette 101

Whether it was a wet, cold spring or it was hot and dry, there will probably be huckleberries. But where and when? That’s always the question in our neck of the Northwest woods. The warmer and drier the spring, the sooner there are huckleberries. The wetter and colder the spring, the later they will be.

If you’re a seasoned purple-stained Huckleberry Head, or if you’re just starting to forage the forests of the Northwest, here are some tips about huckleberries you should know.

Tip 1 – If you ask, “Where’s your spot?” don’t expect anyone to tell you. There are few secrets more closely kept and shared only with the closest of friends. Like your personal fishing hole, a huckleberry patch is a personal thing. It takes a long time to find a good patch, so expect it may take a long time for someone to tell you! You can always go searching for your own, too.

Huckleberries! CREDIT: Peckycox at English Wikipedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Tip 2 – Get Noisy. Assuming you will soon find your own patch, or if you’re going out with friends, make LOTS of noise while picking. However closely guarded the secret of your huckleberry spot may be, there may be other people (and bears) in the same area as you. Singing and whistling are pleasant ways to let other people know that you are NOT a bear, and it lets other bears know you’re there. The last thing anyone wants on a huckleberry expedition is a surprised bear. Or a surprised human — sometimes equally dangerous.

Tip 3 – Take protection against bears. A dog to bark away a bear, a firearm (if that’s your preferred choice of protection), or bear pepper spray. Especially in remote areas, you can’t be too careful about the wildlife.

Tip 4 – Wear boots and long pants like a proper Northwesterner. No matter how hot it is, you will want to wear boots and long pants. Unless you want scratched up legs and sore feet from brushing against branches and stepping on a thousand sticks. Sweating a little extra in the heat is a lot less painful. Also, boots are good to guard against potential snake bites.

Tip 5 – Sharing huckleberries. If someone shares their huckleberries with you, they deserve a lot of reciprocity. It takes a long time to pick enough huckleberries to share. Baking a cake of their favorite flavor isn’t too much. If you are a person who shares your huckleberries, you are a kind and generous person and you deserve, at minimum, your favorite cake. Although, you’re probably so nice that you wouldn’t be sharing them expecting cake. But you still dessert it – I mean, deserve it.

Tip 6 – Have fun with them! Huckleberry pancakes, huckleberry ice cream, huckleberry milkshakes, huckleberry bread, etc. Get creative with your huckleberry creations! (Here are a few suggested recipes.) They are good for just about anything. Just be sure to rinse them thoroughly and dry them off. You can always freeze them, if you can’t use them all at once. To make them freeze better, coat them in a little sugar before you put them in the freezer.

Best of luck with your huckleberry picking!

Bonus Huckleberry Trivia: There are a couple of sayings featuring huckleberries.

“I’m your Huckleberry”: Probably made most famous by Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Doc Holiday in Tombstone. It means, “I’m the one you want.” These days it is also interpreted as a sweet way of saying, “I’m the one you love” or “I’m your special someone.” Although, originally it meant something more like, “I’m the one you want (for the job).”

“That’s a huckleberry above my persimmon”: An older expression that means, basically, “that’s above my pay grade.” Try that one out on your friends and see what they say!

Do you have any tips for new or seasoned huckleberry pickers? Let us know on Facebook!