Cool, fresh, pure air . . . a refreshing reprieve from the oppressive summer heat and hazy smoke-filled sky of fire-season.
Sweet little gems bursting with flavor in your mouth.
Did that have you coming? Come on . . . FREE FOOD! 🙂
In 2016, our family started a tradition of trekking to a local mountain about one hour away from us to pick wild huckleberries. Having gone four times now in the past several years, we can’t begin to count all the reasons we love this ritual and plan to do it indefinitely in the future. Here are a few to entice you out into open country:
To Connect Us to the Past
My husband’s heritage is rich with memories of immigration and making a life in Wisconsin; listen to this memory his aunt shared with me recently (she is filled with wonderful stories!):
“Directly across the street was a wide field that sloped acutely for about a block or so down to the Nemadji River. In the summer, we would go to the field and pick wild strawberries to take home where they were transformed into Strawberry Whip for dessert that night.”
I love this. Food is so profoundly attached to tradition, to story, to heritage. I remember picking raspberries on my grandfather’s farm on the Rathdrum prairie growing up; it is one of my favorite things to think on when I look back. I want our boys to have those memories too – to know where they came from, what they are about, the earth they are a part of. Because far, far back in our past, at the very beginning, the dust of our earth was formed into our very being!
I also have another special reason why I love coming to the mountain – it’s where my husband and I fell in love and he proposed several months later. See that red and white tower high high up there? I said yes right about there. 🙂 It’s a blessing to return to the place where our family and our life started.
“Beneath the air of autumn, she took him by his hand
And warm within the ardor, she took his heart instead
And high upon the mountain, he asked her for her hand
Just for her hand.”
Berry Picking for Health
The standard American diet is lacking in wild foods these days. Think about the amazing foods Native Americans used to eat: roots, berries, leaves . . . all local, freshly picked, still filled with vital energy and nutrients. So much ancient history and tradition in what was gathered and savored.
Wild foods are wonderful for our health. They speak to our bodies about the environment around us. And they mediate reactions in our bodies that help us thrive. Check out this study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (1): researchers found that regular consumption of a wild blueberry drink increased Bifidobacterium species in the intestines. The polyphenols and fiber in the fruit help to increase this beneficial probiotic in the gut.
Berry Picking as Meditation
Everything about picking huckleberries can be a meditation.
The preparation the night beforehand, assembling buckets, preparing food to eat, reading “Blueberries for Sal” the morning before we head out.
Trudging to your patch, to the place where your family returns each year. Begin fed by the same bushes and knowing that feeling of being connected to God and the earth He sustains you with.
The heavy stillness of the air, punctuated only by the sound of “kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk!” or a shout of, “Here’s another patch!”
The concentration needed to grasp a delicious orb between thumb and middle finger and gently pull it off the bush so as not to damage it. Squatting down low to look under the leaves for the best huckleberries and then looking up and realizing you moved to a different place from where you started.
Getting lost in this big wide world to be a part of it again.
There’s still a little time left if you want to pick huckleberries this season! We’ve found the best time to pick is the last week of July, but times will vary locally. I’ll try to post some tips soon about picking logistics. If you do venture out, have fun! 🙂
(1) J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Dec 28;59(24):12815-20. doi: 10.1021/jf2028686. Epub 2011 Nov 18.