Why Are Huckleberries So Special To Idaho?

Everyone has heard of huckleberries, thanks to the Mark Twain book, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and Doc Holiday's famous line, "I'm your huckleberry," delivered by the indelible Val Kilmer in the classic western movie, "Tombstone." Yet, few people have ever tried them, unless they have traveled to or live in the northern coastal areas or Rocky Mountain region of the United States and Canada.

Huckleberries are wild berries that grow on small evergreen shrubs and thrive in the cool, shady regions of the Pacific Northwest and the northern states from Wyoming to Alaska. A cousin to once wild strawberries and blueberries, huckleberries have yet to be successfully cultivated. Just like foraged morel mushrooms and other highly coveted wild foods, huckleberries are elusive even in their natural habitat. And people in the know aren't sharing their location, hoping instead to keep their bounty all to themselves.

According to Northwest Wild Foods, huckleberries are tiny purplish-red berries packed with sweet-tart floral flavors and abundant antioxidants, making them as healthy for you as they are delicious. Huckleberries make for scrumptious ice cream, jelly, jam, pie, cobbler, and syrup, but are also wonderful raw and usually devoured by the handful!

Idaho's huckleberry obsession peaks in late summer

While huckleberries grow in other regions, it is in the volcanic soil of northern Idaho near Coeur d'Alene, that some of the best huckleberries grow in the cool mountainous region around the city, reveals the Buy Boise Real Estate blog. There are many types of huckleberries and the deep purple variety that grows in Idaho are the sweetest and most flavorful. Idahoans absolutely love the huckleberry, which is their official state fruit, and use it in sweet and savory dishes as well as in shampoo, soap, and skin care products. Montana and Oregon rival Idaho in their obsession with the hard-to-cultivate wild shrub.

Foragers on a quest for their holy wild huckleberry grail flock to Idaho during huckleberry season when the berries reach peak ripeness from late July to early October. The huckleberry harvest window can be small, as pickers race to gather them before the first snowfall. Lucky huckleberry hunters will have to compete with local wildlife including hungry bears preparing for their long winter slumber, curious foxes, majestic elk, and flocks of birds.

The Idaho County Free Press indicates that if you manage to find someone who will share their prize, huckleberries sell for $90 a gallon. In Idaho County you can find huckleberry preserves for $8 a jar, along with huckleberry scones and muffins, sauces and syrups, and huckleberry pies for as much as $60 each. A small price to pay for one of nature's most delectable and exceptional treats.