Pickin’ on huckleberries

Despite their common appearance, there is little similar between a blueberry and a huckleberry.

A blueberry is pale, with a subdued taste. It’s common. It’s boring.

A member of the same family, the huckleberry is tart and wonderful, every bite similar to what caviar must feel like.

Blueberries are typical. Huckleberries are rare. In fact, blueberries are often used in less particular creations that claim to be made with huckleberries. One huckleberry to every three blueberries – enough to keep everything legally “huckleberry-ish.” They cost a fortune when offered pure, and they’re almost as good when offered muddled.

They’re like gold. Except worth more, it seems.

Huckleberries can’t be grown in captivity.

They are a mystic fruit, dripping with old west legend. Their name is rustic in a way no other can claim. Nestled in the family tree next to the cranberry and the blueberry, they serve as a backwoods cousin.

Like homemade whiskey, they pucker your lips. You shudder, waiting for the next rude smack of insolvent country manner. Instead, you’re treated to a taste that blueberries still fight to attain.

Though I’ve grown up around both, only one carries the legacy of hand-picking, the plunk of a tin bucket as we wind our way through a wooded hill, speaking loud to keep the bears away and wondering if all of the work is worth it – if these few handfuls of berries will be able to ease our sore knees and purplish hands.

But a few handfuls are all you need. And yes, once paired with cream, or siphoned into jelly, it’s more worth it than any food you’ve had the trouble of fighting for.

You’d get in trouble for stealing a few, but Grandpa Boyer scolded in jest. After all, his lips had the same purple tint as yours.

They’re irresistible. And no amount of blueberries will ever suffice.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 25th, 2009