First of all, I didn't expect them to be so easy-to-find*.
Second, I didn't expect them to be so perfectly lovely to look at. Such brilliant red. They practically glow, even in the shade.
No photo enhancements here - this is the real deal.
Third, I didn't expect them to taste so complex baked in a fairly simple tart.
60 minutes after picking them we were baking Wild Berry Tartlets at the Strawberry Hill Center on Bainbridge Island.
The flavors? Fantastic.
And last of all, but certainly not least, I didn't realize that Red Huckleberries would look a lot like caviar. Preserving them with sugar and a touch of orange zest brought out even more of their pure flavors.
The tiny seeds you see? Tender and not noticeable at all when you eat them.
It's easy to see why people who forage are so wild (pardon the pun) about it. Walking along a trail in one of our spectacular forests and discovering "free food" just ripe for the pickin' is a quintessential Pacific Northwest experience. As if your walk in the woods isn't wonderful enough, you're often rewarded with a bonus of antioxidant-rich berries.
Wild preserving has added a very exciting dimension to my passion for "putting up". With a reputed 13 varieties of huckleberries in Washington state I think I have a lot of tasty experiments in my foraging future.
*Okay so maybe not THAT easy-to-find...I had help. Thanks to Langdon Cook for leading the way to the Red Huckleberries. You can find out about more foraging field trips by following his blog, Fat of the Land.
Elisa Rathje, from Apple Turnover - Homemade Stories, wrote a wonderfully informative post about Red Huckleberries, which she sent me shortly after I published my own post. Our timing was eerily in sync, even though we are separated by 200 miles, and have never met.
I just have to share her words and photos!
You can follow Elisa on Twitter: @HomemadeStories
And yes Elisa, great minds DO think alike.