Saturday, July 17, 2010
Huckleberries are adorable and taste like heaven, but perhaps even better, they make you aware of and thankful for being in the right place at the right time. Since attempts to cultivate them have not come to much, luck is practically one of their flavor notes.
Many years ago on a summer trip through the Smokies my parents and I stopped at a little roadside restaurant for some lunch. When we asked about dessert our server said all of the menu items were sold out but she guessed there was a serving of huckleberry cobbler left in kitchen, just something they made for themselves out of berries from out back and not as pretty as the menu desserts, but we were welcome to try some. It was The Best Cobbler I have ever eaten. Blueberries and blackberries have a lot going for them, but somehow huckleberries manage to pack an unparalleled amount of flavor and complexity into a tiny package. Maybe wildness is the secret ingredient.
The huckleberries that grow on the Pilchuck Tree Farm in northern Washington state are of the red variety and tarter that the blues I've eaten before, but just as delicious. Like the salmonberry, the nutritious huckleberry was a major player in Native American diets. It was eaten fresh, dried, or mixed with other ingredients such as salmon roe.