Huckleberry Picking in the Creston Valley
Perhaps only gold panning comes close to capturing the spirit of huckleberry picking. This activity is so captivating that my family and I have ignored rain and the advent of darkness to keep on searching for a better bush with even bigger juicier berries.
I have placed this information for those who have yet to try this activity and want to know what they are missing. I welcome input from veteran pickers for I am a novice picker. Being an Alberta transplant meant that I only heard about huckleberries once I moved here. Even then my experience was limited to a bowl of ice cream topped with fresh huckleberries offered by a generous neighbour. I had never tasted anything so good. They made domesticated blueberries taste flat. I was motivated to get out and get my own. The only thing is where? I soon discovered that people are as likely to share their patch with you, as they are their favorite fishing hole.
My first experience picking came when I was touring up the Grey Creek Pass with my family. We were driving along when we first sighted vehicles parked alongside the forestry road. Suddenly purple-smeared faces poked out from behind bushes to identify who was coming. The sight of these curious looking folks enticed us to pull over and enquire as to what they were doing. We approached a mature looking woman who responded to us with an offer of a bucket and a quick lesson. That day was magical. We filled our faces and buckets with berries and enjoyed a day filled with fresh air, nature and family love.
- Berries vary in size and colour but they all have the same star design on the base of the berry similar to a blueberry.
- In the Kootenays you can find ripe huckleberries in low areas during July and higher elevations during August.
- The bush can range from 1 foot high to 3 feet high
- Some years you may only find a cup of berries and other years buckets full.
- Previously burned or selectively logged areas seem to host huckleberry bushes. They prefer moderate to full sunlight. Huckleberries grow in acidic soil. Granite soils tend to be acidic.
- To find a location with some help make a deal with a senior who can’t get out picking any more. Make a trade for directions to their patch in exchange for a percentage of your pick.
- Start scouting for your patches in July when little green berries are formed. Then make note of their abundance to compare with other sites you will seek out. Return to monitor their ripening.
- 1 cup frozen huckleberries
- 1 banana
- 1-cup juice
- 1-cup yogurt
Blend and serve. Makes 3 glasses.
- 2 cups huckleberries
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1/8-teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cups corn flakes
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
Rub a 1½-quart baking dish with butter. Combine berries, sugar, water salt, and lemon juice in saucepan and simmer 5 minutes. Pour half the berry mixture into baking dish. Top with 1 cup coarsely crushed corn flakes. Repeat. Sprinkle with cinnamon, drizzle butter over top. Bake 25 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve with cream.
Huckleberry Cheese Pie
- 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
- 1-cup thick sour cream
- ¾ cup, 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 eggs, well-beaten
- 6 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 pint, 1 cup huckleberries
One pie shell, baked and cooled
Mix together well: cream cheese, ½ cup sugar, eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
Pour into crust and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Blend sour cream, 1-teaspoon vanilla, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Spread this into pie, at the end of cooking time above, to within ½ inch from edge. Place pie back into a hot oven, 425 degrees for 5 minutes. Cool.
Topping: Arrange about one pint of huckleberries on top of cooled pie. Place one-cup huckleberries in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons of water and ¼ cup sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes and strain. Put juice back in saucepan (if juice does not equal 1 cup, add water) and add 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Cook 5 minutes more, stirring. Cool slightly, then pour over berries on pie.
Let pie set for at least one hour before cutting.
Top slices with a spoonful of sweetened heavy whipped cream.