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How Do I Know When Huckleberries Are Ripe?

Huckleberry image by asmik from Fotolia.com

Huckleberries grow throughout the Pacific Northwest, Northeastern United States, even parts of Alaska. The shrubs grow well in middle to higher mountain elevations. In parts of Oregon and Washington they can often be found along the sea and beaches. Locating prime picking sites in national forest land can be tricky. Look for areas that offer full sunlight such as regions that have been heavily clear-cut by logging or areas of old forest fires. In the Pacific Northwest there are 12 species of huckleberries, according to the U.S. National Forest Service.

Pick huckleberries from mid-August to early October. Depending on the previous winter and summertime weather, the berries may ripen early or be seriously delayed.

Harvest berries that appear firm, plump and dull in color. As the berries ripen, they loose their shiny appearance and begin to sport a duller luster. Berries come in red and blue, in large clusters or singularly on stems.

Gently pull each individual berry from the stem. A ripe berry will easily separate from the stem with no damage.

Avoid berries that appear or feel mushy or discolored. An overly soft berry is a sign the huckleberry is too ripe and will easily end up a bucket of mush with the weight of the other berries pressing on it during transport.

Tip

Wash huckleberries prior to consuming.

Warning

Always carry a wilderness survival kit including a map when going into the forest to pick huckleberries. Let a family member or friend know the location you intend to pick and what time you will be home. Watch for wild animals such as bears, which also enjoy feasting on ripe huckleberries. Most national forest lands prohibit huckleberry rakes or instruments to pick the berries. They must be picked by hand only. Check regulations before picking.

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