Posts tagged: Huckleberries
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FORESTS – Huckleberries, designated Idaho’s state fruit in 2000, have been ripe for picking for a couple weeks in the low areas of Priest Lake, and the crop is gradually ripening up the mountain slopes throughout the Inland Northwest.
Don’t set your purple-tongue ambitions too high, yet.
Outdoors editor Rich Landers found ripe huckleberries for the first hour of hiking up Scotchman Peak Trail 65 northeast of Lake Pend Oreille on Thursday with lots of green berries above that to satisfy berry pickers in the prime picking period of August.
Savvy huckleberry pluckers know certain high areas, such as the Roman Nose Peak region in the Selkirks, are harvest-perfect in September.
Huckleberries flourish in several varieties across the region, from the deep-purple lowbush types in the east Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness to the tiny grouse huckleberry (a.k.a. grouse whortleberry) that grows on 10-inch high, small-leaf plants at or above timberline in the Selkirks and Bitterroots.
The ”big huckleberry” (a.k.a. black or thin-leaved) is the most popular berry in the Idaho Panhandle. This species grows in moist, cool forested environments at mid to upper elevations. The plants grow up to three feet tall and take up to 15 years to reach full maturity. The single, dark purple berries grow on the shoots the plant produced that year, according to plant ecologist Charles Johnson.
Huckleberries are a treat for humans and a necessity for the region’s bears. A poor huckleberry crop in the Priest Lake area in 1979 resulted in reduced bear productivity and survival for the next two years, according to research by John Beecham, retired Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologist.
Black bears have flexible ‘prehensile lips’ that can pick individual huckleberries without ingesting leaves faster than a human can harvest.
Bears can be expected anywhere berries are ripe. Pickers should carry bear spray as a precaution.
The annual Huckleberry Festival sponsored by the Priest Lake Search and Rescue is set for Saturday, July 20, at the Priest Lake Golf Course, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Info: Dory Miller, (509) 979-8802.
NATIVE PLANTS — The huckleberry bush, the most revered shrub in the Inland Northwest, is getting less respect as berry pickers succumb to greed.
Practices are getting so bad, the Forest Service has issued a media release warning that recently observed practices — such as CUTTING OFF A BUSH SO BERRIES COULD BE MORE EASILY PICKED — are against the law and punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.
It's safe to say most huckleberry plant abusers aren't among the families returning to their favorite huckleberry hot spots generation after generation. None of these people wants to damage plants and reduce the harvest of future years.
However, many people may not realize the senseless and improper use of rake-like huckleberry pickers also damages the berry bushes.
Meanwhile, read on for more information on the latest damaging practices reported by the Forest Service.
HUNTING — A poor huckleberry year generally translates into good hunting for black bears that expose themselves more as they search lower and farther for food to fatten for winter.
Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game regional wildlife manager in Coeur d'Alene, recently did an informal survey of hunters asking them to evealuate the huckleberry crop. The verdict was that this year's crop generally gets a C- grade — not great, but not terrible.
That could help hunters some, but it may not lead to the harvest windfall Hayden was suspecting as he found few berries in his personal forays.
Read on to see his report.
OUTDOOR EVENTS — Time's ripe for Schweitzer’s 5th annual Huckleberry Festival. With berries ready to pick at the 3,2000 foot level, the picking will gradually rise in elevation as the festivities kick off on Sunday (Aug. 7
From 8 a.m. -4 p.m. the resort above Sandpoint plans to tint tongues purple, starting with a huckleberry pancake breakfast, before shuttling visitors up to begin hiking and putting purple stains on their fingers while combing the alpine slopes for berries.
Read on for more details.