Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Dr. Huckleberry" 2008 Huckleberry Crop Forecast

This in from Dr. Dan Barney, University of Idaho extension horticulturist, aka Dr. Huckleberry!

I’ve managed to get into the high country a bit and the crops in northern Idaho look good so far. Fruit set was very good at all elevations I have been at and across a fairly wide area. I finished picking my crop at the Sandpoint R&E Center (2,000 feet elevation) on July 11. I noted pickers in the 3,000 foot elevation range last week and berries seem to be both abundant and quite large at that elevation. Higher up, the berries are still green but set abundantly and seem to be sizing up well.

We’re getting a little more moisture than last year, but it is still very dry and higher elevation berries are likely to be rather smaller than those lower down that are already ripe.

THANKS, Dr. Dan!

I am hearing reports from Montana as well, and hearing that the berries are coming on very fast now with the warm weather, and this first weekend of August should be incredible for recreationists out picking wild huckleberries!\

Good picking! We are up picking in the Clark Fork, Idaho area on Saturday, probably the Coeur d'Alene area the following weekend. I need 30 gallons for my next batch of Wild Huckleberry Toe Jam! (Under the Idaho Redneck label!)

All for today, look for our picking report on MONDAY!


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Predicting BUMPER Huckleberry Crop in 2008!

I got reports the last two days, from people in three locations in the Idaho Panhandle, and I am predicting A BONKERS BUMPER CROP of wild huckleberries. Maybe the best since 1994, perhaps even better.

Roy from the Coeur d'Alene area says the huckleberry crop is still mostly green, but ripening. At the lowest elevations of wild huckleberry habitat on the south facing slopes, huckleberries are mostly just getting ripe, and are BIG! Mid elevation, most plants have some ripe berries, but not as sweet as they will get, but most huckleberries still on the green side of things. At the higher elevations, berries are still pretty much green, but LOTS OF THEM!

Overall the crop is FULL THREE WEEKS behind a normal year, with the heavy winter snows, that took so long to melt off, with the cool wet spring we had this year.

Gail from the Clark Fork area said her husband was out and found three different patches, at different elevations, each with some ripe huckleberries. Huckleberries were "big" at the higher elevations, and she is a true huckleberry hound, making lots of huckleberry goodies in her home kitchen.

If you've never gone huckleberry picking before, or if you've stayed home the last few years (especially 2007, one of the worst years on record), plan some time in 2008. Peak of the wild huckleberry harvest will be the first two weeks of August.

Also, for those of you thinking of using rakes, I just posted instructions on how to use a huckleberry rake, plus tips on managing your huckleberry picking foray. Check it out at Huckleberry Rake! Plus, I posted a couple photos from a huckleberry workshop, in Elk River, Idaho in 2005, with Dr. Dan Barney, Idaho's resident huckleberry expert, showing the group how to pick huckleberries with a huckleberry rake.

All for today. We will be out picking August 2 in the Clark Fork area, and August 8-10 in the Coeur d'Alene area.

Let me know what you would like to see in this blog!

Happy Huckleberry Picking!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wild Huckleberry Season -- Early Reports & Picking with Rakes

Early reports from my fellow "huckleberry hounds" indicate wild huckleberries are starting to ripen in the lower elevations (e.g. 2600') , although still tasting a bit on the sour or "pre-sweet" side of things. Reports also indicate the current wild huckleberry crop is HEAVY at lower elevations.

Normally, we are picking wild huckleberries at lower habitats around the first of July, so just like the cherries in my back yard, EVERYTHING is 2 or 3 weeks later than usual. In fact, the higher elevation huckleberries maybe 3 weeks or more later than usual. An early frost could really shorten the season this year, because those purple gems are still green and small right now.

We are holding hope, with the excellent winter snow cover, wet spring, and more moderate summer temps than years past, we will see a bumper crop of wild huckleberries in 2008. This could be the best year since 1994, the last bumper crop, regionally. However, the positive outlook for the lower elevation berries may not carry over to the upper elevations, where the great bulk of wild huckleberry habitat exists.

According to Dr. Dan Barney, University of Idaho extension horticulturist -- known affectionately as Dr. Huckleberry among his friends -- he expects average to above average wild huckleberry yields in the lower elevation wild huckleberry habitat, with average to above average berry sizes. For higher elevations, he is not so optimistic, and expects spotty crops, but things are still early.

Several issues com into play with the higher elevations wild huckleberry crop. While snow cover was the best in years, some areas had a cold wet spring (possibly affecting pollination?), while other areas did not get much rainfall. Also, Idaho experienced significant snow storms VERY LATE, June 8-9, which probably translated into late frosts in the higher elevations. Since the actual berries only occur on the current year's growth, this is critical.

With a couple weeks of hot weather, although milder than recent years, the wild huckleberries are really starting to come on! Cross your fingers, and get out there... but plan your outings at least two weeks LATER than normal for wild huckleberries.

And if you are interested in getting more huckleberries in your bucket, with fewer gas guzzling trips to the woods, I am now offering huckleberry rakes, sometimes called, "huckleberry pickers", for sale. Check out Huckleberry Rakes ! We also carry them on our Tastes of Idaho web site, take your picker, lol!

And we hope to see you out huckleberry picking in the wilds of Idaho, with your huckleberry rake, very soon!

I will posting more often. I apologize if you tuned in, and I was tuned out!