Sunday, August 17, 2008

What Size Huckleberries Will a Rake Capture?

A woman from Eagle, Idaho had me on the phone yesterday, asking just how small of a huckleberry will a huckleberry rake pick up?

As we discussed previously, one of the benefits of a rake, is that you get a more efficient harvest of smaller berries. This is partly because if you are hand picking, you are more likely to pass over the smaller purple berries. And also, smaller berries are often on branches with smaller leaves, which are MUCH easier to rake. Swish! - and the branch is clean, no damage. Small huckleberries pile up quickly in your bucket.

FYI, on the model we sell, and this is typical of huckleberry rakes in general, the distance between the edges of the tines is about 3/16 of an inch (about halfway between 1/4 inch and 1/8 inch). Just to be clear, I am not talking about the tine spacing when you are building a rake, which is the distance from the center of a tine, to the center of the next tine. No, this is the inside distance between the outer edges of adjacent rake tines.

So, the answer to this woman's quest, is that any round berry down to a little less than 3/16 inch, will catch in the tines and end up in your bucket. Because there is a slight flattening (and therefore widening) of the berries when you pull up against them, you might get some berries slightly below that measurement, but that is about it. But, if you are catching some leaves (and you probably are), they will often cradle even smaller berries, and pull them along for the ride, into the rake reservoir. This is how you will sometimes get very tiny green berries into your bucket... but a little shake of the rake, will remove some of those, out the bottom.

In summary, huckleberries 1/4 inch (same as 4/16) will definitely end up in your rake -- 1/8 inch diameter berries mostly will not, again, unless some leaves drag them in.

One of this woman's questions was really about the high elevation huckleberry, with the really sweet, but very tiny berries, a different species known as "grouse whortleberry". While closely related to our Idaho state fruit, the mountain huckleberry, this little gem probably is not a good bet for using a huckleberry rake. The rake would need a complete redesign, to pull in the tiny berries on "grouse huck", and then the new rake would be useless for our more common huckleberry. But an interesting idea, none the less.


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