Recipe: huckleberry ice cream
Last summer, my friend and expert wild foods forager, Wendy, introduced me to foraging. It was the inevitable marriage of two of my loves: the backcountry and food. Make that THREE of my loves: the backcountry, food, and plants. I’m a little bit of a plant geek, although nothing close to Wendy’s level of knowledge and geekdom. Truth be told, eating the food is probably the least favorite aspect of foraging for me. I really love the outdoors, the thrill of the hunt (I tell Wendy that I think porcini hunting would be far more exciting if the mushrooms could run… and scream), and learning the native plants. Familiarity with the plants and their various medicinal or culinary uses makes me cherish these mountains even more than I already do.
So when Wendy told me she was going to show me huckleberries last summer, she said, “You’re gonna kick yourself when you realize what they are.” And she was correct. The plant is a low-growing ground cover over a good portion of our mountains. It is EVERYWHERE and I’ve always admired it as a pretty understory on the forested slopes. It’s been there this whole time and I never knew they were huckleberry plants! The plants seem to thrive above 9000 feet, but peter out near treeline (somewhere around 10,800 or 11,000 feet). The berries are small here in the Rockies and quite well hidden, especially if you don’t know to look for them.
the berries are underneath
Of course, as with all things, please don’t go randomly picking berries that you aren’t familiar with and popping them into your mouth. That’s just bad form… and it’s dumb. The first time I tasted a fresh huckleberry, I was blown away by the intensity of it. Huckleberries have the perfect balance of tartness, sweetness, and a big flavor for such a tiny berry. Wendy described it perfectly, “Huckleberries are what blueberries aspire to be.” It’s so true. I had a hunch that the huckleberries were nearing peak a few weeks ago, but I was so busy with out-of-town visitors and work that I didn’t get out to pick any until last week. Most of the patches were bare, but a few choice locations had some dark purple berries. I managed half of what I needed for a batch of ice cream. My fear was that I would have to augment the huckleberries with store-bought blueberries and wind up with bluckleberry ice cream. I tried another trail the following morning and was able to squeak out enough for the recipe. These were a little less ripe, but still so full of flavor that some sugar would brighten them up easily enough.
my end-of-season haul
make a compote: huckleberries, water, lemon, sugar
**Jump for more butter**