In our last few Inside Idaho’s, we took a peak inside the state’s mining history, including a look at the purple garnet. This week, we uncover another beloved “purple gold”… this one found above ground.
While the potato is Idaho’s official state vegetable, it’s the state’s fruit that many Idahoans are proud of. In 2000, a group of fourth-grade students from Southside Elementary School in Bonner County proposed that the black huckleberry officially become Idaho’s state fruit.
Found in ice cream, jam, pies, pancakes and a whole lot of other sweet treats, the round purple tart berriesare not only delicious but they are coveted. And not just by Idahoans, but by bears who eat them as a main food source.
You can buy them fresh or frozen at some farmer’s markets and roadside stands in the summer. However, they’re expensive and have a short shelf life. The best way to get your hands on them, is to well.. pick them yourself.
Thriving in higher elevations, huckleberries can be found between 4,000 and 6,000 feet during picking season, which starts in July and runs through the end of August.
“The best sites are those that can support grand fir, alpine fir and lodgepole pine trees in abundant sunlight,” according to the USDA Forest Service website. “The best picking is usually found in areas opened up from forest fires, on trails through fir stands and timber cuts, or along old roads.”
Ponderosa State Park in McCall, Huckleberry Creek in the Sawtooth Mountains and Priest Lake in Northern Idaho are just a few hot spots for picking.
It’s not a secret that huckleberry enthusiasts in Idaho are a bit territorial when it comes to sharing their huckleberry hunting grounds. While it does take some time to find them, there is plenty of huckleberry love to go around… if you look in the right spots. Ask a longtime visitor or resident of the Idaho high country, and they’ll probably have a favorite spot to pick – though they might not be willing to tell you.
Next week in our Inside Idaho series: How the state’s “river of no return” go its name.