Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jewels from the Forest - Wild Huckleberries

Three generations got together to pick
huckleberries in the shadow of Mt. Hood
The sun dapples through the trees at the edge of the clearing while the snow capped peak of Mt. Hood dominates the horizon.  The scent of warm dust and pine float on the breeze.  Below, hundreds of amethyst gems hide under green and red leaves all down the slope.  Late summer in the high Cascades is huckleberry season.

Picking huckleberries is work.  The best bushes are knee high, and it isn't uncommon to have only a few berries per bush.  However, once you put your nose in the bucket and breath deep, the intoxicating scent makes it all worth while.  While they look a little like blueberries, the taste is much more complex.  In fact there are several varieties that grow in the same areas, but our favorite variety has a fairly large (for a huckleberry) dark purple to black berry on a low scraggly shrub.  According to the International Wild HuckleBerry Association they are V. membranaceum and are commonly called mountain huckleberry, mountain bilberry, black huckleberry, tall huckleberry, big huckleberry, thin-leaved huckleberry, globe huckleberry, or Montana huckleberry. 

Other varieties are more blueberry like in looks, habit and taste, but the berries are tiny and less flavorful.  They tend to grow in the moister areas, towards the dry creek bed in the bottom of the ravine.  Be sure to take a whistle and make a lot of noise while you pick, because we're not the only ones that love huckleberries

While we've made a lot of things from huckleberry pancakes and muffins to a wicked huckleberry port, one of my favorites is the huckleberry cream cheese pie Betsy makes every year with the first of the berries.  This year, Claire took over the honors and did us proud, with a wonderful rendition.  In contrast to picking the berries, this recipe is quick and easy.

This is as close as you'll get to a shot of the finished pie, as soon
as the whip cream was on, we dug right in.

Huckleberry Pie

8" or 9" graham cracker crust
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 Cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

2 Cups fresh huckleberries
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
3 Tbls. cornstarch

1/2 Pint whipping cream

Spreading the cream cheese mixture in the crust.
Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla together, then spread over the bottom of the crust.

Combine the huckleberries, water, sugar and corn starch in a pan and heat to a boil and cook for a minute or two, until mixture thickens.  Pour the berry mixture over the cream cheese layer and allow to cool. 

When ready to serve, top the pie with fresh whipped cream.

To my mind, this is the quintessential huckleberry experience and I hope you give it a try.

Claire is measuring out homemade vanilla extract

Claire labeling jars of huckleberries for the freezer


  1. I have yet to experience huckleberries, but they sound amazing! Your pie looks delicious! I love that there is a creamy layer along with the berries!

  2. Thanks Amy! If you get a chance, do yourself s favor and give them a try. If you can't pick them yourself, you might find them at a farmer's market if they grow in your area. They really make me look forward to late summer.

  3. I can vouch that this is an excellent and more importantly EASY recipe! Thanks for sharing with me, Loren....both the recipe and the freshly picked huckleberries!