Saturday, August 23, 2008

Huckleberry Hunting

Recently, Anna had a friend go huckleberry hunting and she offered us some of the rewards from her trip. The look and taste of the berries inspired Anna to plan a trip with our family to find the origin of the huckleberries. So, we loaded up the kids and the car and headed to Kelly Canyon. On the way I asked what part of Kelly Canyon the berries would be found and she said, “oh, just up by the ski resort. They should be quite a ways off trails” On the trip Anna made cute little buckets for the kids to carry, she made them out of old sour cream containers and yarn. We also had little zip lock baggies to store our haul while we gathered more and more. So…off we went. Upon arriving at the base of Kelly Canyon we traversed the road three times to find the perfect spot, this spot was clearly the one as it was designated by a tipped over tree, a small stream and the smell of cow manure. That is how you know where the huckleberries are.

Upon arriving at the perfect location, we unloaded the kids and put Maile in her little backpack and off we went. Two feet later, Maile screaming in her backpack, we took our first water break and Maile was given freedom of movement. Our first encounter with berries was some small red berries 20 feet from the car, to which I asked, are these huckleberries. The reply,

“no…they are darker than that…more like blueberries. So, on we went. At this point, since I had no idea what huckleberries or their plants look like, I asked some find-out questions…

”So, what are we looking for”


“Yeah...what do huckleberries look like?”

“Blueberries, maybe a little bigger, more purple.”

“What do the plants look like?”

“Short, not taller than 5 feet or so. There are ones that look like huckleberries, but if they are taller than 5 feet they are probably “service berries”

“Are service berries bad?”

“I don’t think so, but they aren’t good.”

(Now, I must clarify, the reason I am asking all these questions is because our internet was down for the time from the decision to go huckleberry hunting to the time we left, so I had no way of gathering the information prior to leaving.)

Anyway, so on we continue. About 100 feet from the road (not far from any trail) we came to a plant with some purplish berries on a plant (I still don’t know if they are bushes or trees).

“Are these huckleberries?”

“I don’t know. Let’s taste them and see.”

This did not resonate in my mind as the best idea as images of poisoned children and family and hospital visits went streaming through my mind, but on voicing concerns, I was met with, “Let’s just eat a few and see what they taste like.” So we tried a few. Now “tasting” something the size of a pea, does not give a good sense, however, we decided that since they weren’t horrible, we would gather these and call them huckleberries. The rule though was that no one, especially the children could eat them, just in case they were poisonous (The kids of course ate some while we weren't watching).

We picked 4 full quart bags of these “huckleberries” all the while sharing our hopes that they weren’t poisonous and that they could be eaten and used in pies. On the way out, we saw some smaller berries that were on smaller plants, and because these were also purple, and shorter than 5' we wondered if we had the real huckleberries or not. So, naturally, we tried some. These we immediately spit out because they were horrible tasting. While praying that we didn’t just cement our fate, we headed back to the car, but not before gathering a sample from the two plants to bring back to have someone determine how edible these berries really are.

We stopped at the county extension office and found out that the ones we picked four bags of are “service berries” (I thought those trees of 10’ were somewhat over the 5’ limit) and the other smaller berries were...well, Anna talked to the guy and that information never made it out.... So, our lesson, be sure to taste any berries you find and if you like the taste, just gather them, because they can't be bad for you if they taste not bad.

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