41 Huckleberry Fever By Barb Conboy & Debbie Anderson Stained jeans, rope belts, a favorite ball cap, bug spray and your own perfect homemade huckleberry bucket are all loaded up in the four-wheeler. Yes, it’s that time of year, and it can only mean one thing. You are off to the woods to hunt for the prized and often elusive wild Idaho Mountain huckleberry. It doesn’t take a newcomer long to understand that many of us here at the lake are obsessed with this small purple berry. From huckleberry pancakes to huckleberry beer there seems to be no end to the different culinary delights that come from the purple-fingered bounty you bring home in your bucket or, for the less adventuresome, that you order at one of the resorts! For many of us who love to pick these little jewels, half of the fun is in the hunt. Once you park and step out into the woods to explore, the serenity of the Selkirk’s envelopes you. As you walk deeper into the forest the sunlight filters though the dense canopy above, awakening the sweet scents of cedar, pine, and tamarack. When you stop to survey your patch, the southing sounds of birch leaves rustling in the warm afternoon breeze serve as a background for the raven’s call that pierces though the woods to remind us we are not alone out here. When you talk to a seasoned picker you are sure to hear stories of close encounters of the bear kind; for as much as we love these tart purple beauties so too do the bears in the forest. With that in mind, perhaps another item to put on the packing list would be a can of bear spray for that “just-in-case” moment. But, for the most part, if you happen to find yourself in the same patch as a bear, quietly exiting in the opposite direction as the bear is a good strategy. After all, they do have first dibs on the berries as much as we might like to think otherwise. Of course there is a lot of secrecy within the community of huckleberry pickers; we all have our favorite patches. So be weary about asking “Hey where did you pick those berries?” You most likely will get an answer something like, “Oh, you go left on that dirt road off of 57 and follow it up to the top.” You may even encounter berry pickers that use a variety of camouflaging techniques while in woods. We have encountered people with large shrubs strapped on their backs, but, honestly that was a bit over the top even for the most ardent picker. The most common form of camouflaging is the quick duck down behind a log or any other object that might conceal your prized location when you hear an anything driving down the road. The hours you spend in the forest pass by so quickly. When picking with a group you will often hear someone say, “Okay let’s pick for another half hour.” Yet, when that time is up, undoubtedly someone will plead for more time. Ultimately you have to concede, but as you begrudgingly start making your way back to the vehicle, you just cannot stop picking. These tricky little berries know how to hide and as you leave your patch you always find berries that you missed on the way in - so often that half hour turns into an hour. By now you are probably getting the idea that huckleberry picking is serious business. As silly as it all sounds, huckleberry picking can become addictive. Some years produce a banner crop of berries and then other years the harvest is lean. After all these are wild berries, and a myriad of weather and soil conditions factor into the abundance of each years crop. But even a lean year will not stop huckleberry pickers from searching. The memory of that last “Eureka” moment when you came across an amazing patch of berries, spurs you on. That and the wonderful memories you take home with you that are rekindled every time you open up a treasured bag of huckleberries. Nothing says “Priest Lake” like our wild huckleberries! Enjoy this recipe from the kitchen of Barb Conboy: Huckleberry Crisp 4 cups huckleberries 1/4 cup Brown Sugar 2 Tbs flour If defrosting berries, spread berries on paper towels to absorb moisture. Combine berries, sugar and flour in bowl. Pour in 9 x 9 inch pan. Topping 1/2 cup quick oatmeal 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup flour 1/2 tea cinnamon 1/2 cup butter Mix topping, cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over huckleberries. Bake in preheated oven 375 degrees for 30 minutes until golden and crisp. Serves 8. Serve warm or room temperature topped with vanilla ice cream!