Summertime in McCall, Idaho is a beautiful thing. With gorgeous mountain-lake views, infinite opportunities for adventure and, of course, an endless supply of huckleberries, it’s no wonder every year around this time thousands of people gather in nearby Donnelly to celebrate the state’s annual Huckleberry Festival. Beginning this Friday, Aug. 8, vendors from all over the Northwest will line the streets of downtown Donnelly for two days offering every type of huckleberry goody imaginable at the 2014 celebration.
Now, we know not everyone can make it out to the festival to celebrate all things huckleberry, so we have a few tips on how to enjoy these sweet, rich treats, from harvesting the fruit to incorporating it into your favorite dish. A few bites of this acclaimed fruit and it’s easy to see why they’ve been a staple of the Pacific Northwest culture for generations.
Why they’re great: The tart flavor of the huckleberry makes them a great addition to many foods, including ice cream, honey, salsa and pancakes, to name a few. Our Chef Steven Topple, who heads up the culinary teams at all of our restaurants at Shore Lodge and Whitetail Club, always finds unique and interesting ways to incorporate fresh, local ingredients like the huckleberry into each menu. From braised short ribs with huckleberry gastric to a refreshing huckletini, there isn’t any dish or drink our team of culinary professionals can’t make with this delicious fruit.
Where they grow: While farming wild huckleberries has proved to be quite difficult for most of the U.S., many species of the fruit grow all throughout the Northwest, flourishing between elevations of 4,000 and 6,000 feet. Largely resembling a blueberry in appearance, huckleberries can range in shade from bright red to dark purple and in flavor from very sweet to rather tart, depending on the location and time of year.
How to Harvest them: Huckleberry season typically lasts from June through August but can last longer or shorter depending on the weather. To harvest a large amount, spread a clean cloth across the ground below a huckleberry plant and shake the plant. The ripe huckleberries will drop onto the cloth, leaving the immature fruit behind. Since huckleberry season soon will pass, storing the berry properly is a great way to enjoy them year-round. Don’t freeze the delicate fruit as much of the flavor and texture will be lost. Instead, keep them stored in an enclosed area of high humidity at temperatures just above freezing.