Monday, February 21, 2011

i heart huckleberries

“The huckleberry is wildness in your hand, a mountain summer you can savor in the dark of a winter morning. Imagine eating wildness!”

-‘Asta Bowen, The Huckleberry Book

this weekend i finished my article on huckleberries. i ended up doing more research than i really needed to, including baking a batch of huckleberry muffins on saturday (YES that counts as research, very important study.) i read thoreau’s natural history essay on huckleberries but didn't use anything from it because it didn’t fit in. i also came up with an overabundance of title ideas, including “i heart huckleberries,” which was struck down just for being an outdated reference. i might make a screen print out of it because i still think it’s cute.

for anyone interested in the berries, or anyone who’s a fan of good nature writing in general, i highly recommend ‘asta bowen’s huckleberry book. in addition to being super informative it’s full of lively, fun, poetic writing, and it includes some poems and essays by other writers along with a bunch of recipes at the end. it really surprised me how much i got out of reading this--i wasn’t expecting to enjoy it nearly that much.

my friend andrea picks huckleberries in northern idaho every summer with her mom. this year she gave me two gallon bags full of frozen berries, and i’ve been slowly savoring them through fall and winter. there’s about half a bag left, which would easily have dried up months ago if i didn’t control myself.

huckleberry muffins are my favorite. i’ve been tweaking this recipe for a while and i think i finally have all the aspects right. this last batch turned out perfect. here’s the recipe:

vegan huckleberry-poppy seed muffins

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar (i use wholesome sweeteners organic sugar)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons poppy seeds (optional)

1 1/2 cup frozen huckleberries (do not thaw)

1 1/4 teaspoon ener-g egg replacer beaten in 2 tablespoons water

1 cup vanilla soymilk

4 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

preheat oven to 400 degrees. combine dry ingredients and mix well, then add berries and stir to coat. in a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients then add them to dry. stir as little as possible to get everything moist--batter should be very lumpy. pour into muffin tins; i like to sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the tops of each one before putting them in the oven. bake for about half an hour.

here are some quotes i liked from thoreau’s “huckleberries.” a lot of my favorite bits of the essay had nothing specifically to do with huckleberries. i might end up using some of these in an article i’m doing on urban foraging, though.

Blueberries and huckleberries are such simple, wholesome and universal fruits that they concern our race much. It is hard to imagine any country without this kind of berry, on which men live like birds.

Man at length stands in such a relation to Nature as the animals which pluck and eat as they go. The fields and hills are a table constantly spread....They seem offered to us not so much for food as for sociality, inviting us to a pic-nic with Nature. We pluck and eat in remembrance of her.

You eat these berries in the dry pastures where they grow not to gratify an appetite, but as simply and naturally as thoughts come into your mind, as if they were the food of thought, dry as itself, and surely they nourish the brain there.

The very sides of the road are a fruit garden.

As long as the berries are free to all comers they are beautiful, though they may be few and small...

The true fruit of Nature can only be plucked with a fluttering heart and a delicate hand, not bribed by any earthly reward.

Be blown on by all the winds. Open all your pores and breathe in all the tides of nature, in all her streams and oceans, at all seasons.

Grow green with spring – yellow and ripe with autumn. Drink of each season’s influence as a vial, a true panacea of all remedies mixed for your especial use.

For all nature is doing her best each moment to make us well. She exists for no other end. Do not resist her....Why nature is but another name for health.


the Knottie Knitta said...

aww i'm jealous...i want to go get some huckleberries, or pick wild should actually take me with you this fall some time ;)

Emily said...

hehe i promise i will. summer too, it's not just fall--huckleberries ripen late july and early august. also i know of a new (to me) enormous blackberry patch we can hit. and mirabelles...i can't wait for mirabelle season.

the Knottie Knitta said...

sweet! i'm excited. what are you writing your urban foraging article for? we'd love to read it :)

want to make green grape jelly with me when the vines in the backyard are ready?

Bumble Lush (A Garden Blog) said...

Hi Emily,
What's the article for? Anything we can read too? I've never tasted a huckleberry. I'm so curious now, I need to find some so I can try them.

Also, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment on my last post.I'm definitely not giving up on the home garden, but I have more research to do and more things to think about now. That's not necessarily a bad thing!

Emily said...

spoony--the urban foraging article will be for boise magazine, so it'll be all about what you can find here in town. of course i want to make grape jelly with you!

bumble lush--i'd be happy to email you a scanned copy of the article when it comes out. it's for mccall magazine.

western huckleberries are pretty awesome, but unfortunately the varieties you have back east are a different genus (gaylussacia rather than vaccinium) and supposedly not quite as tasty. which means you should come on out here and go picking in the mountains! (there are websites where you can order the frozen berries, and tons of sites where you can order various huckleberry products...that might be a little more practical, but not as fun!)

Potted Farm said...

I've never had a huckleberry... but now I'm on a quest!

Andrea said...

Beautiful post! And lucky you to have bags of frozen huckleberries in the freezer. The muffins sound perfect, and I may make a batch with blueberries, until the huckleberries come back in season.

Emily said...

potted farm--haha good luck on your tasty quest!

andrea--thank you! mmm, huckleberry season. just the phrase makes me all giddy.

mangocheeks said...

Huckleberry girl - I am so envy of your lot. I've never seen or had them. Lucky you. Also beautiful post with beautiful - Beautiful photographs.