Monday, January 7, 2008

Salad Sprouts, Day 7

Things are moving along pretty well with the (hopefully) future salad patch. Nearly all the seeds have sprouted, and most are getting their first true leaves. Some of the sprouts were getting a bit tall, so I took the cover off both seedling starters and moved the lights down to just about 2 inches above the tops of the leaves. I also set up some simple reflectors with aluminum foil to make sure the seedlings get all the light they can. I'm not too worried about the longer stems - I'll just bury them up to their leaves when I transplant, and all will be well.

This weekend I decided to finish getting my freezers cleaned out. We had a really busy summer this year and although I managed to keep up with some of the fruit processing, a lot of it just got cleaned, de-seeded and put into freezer bags. As a result, our freezer was starting to run out of room! So I hauled out bags and bags of frozen fruits and made purees, jams, syrups and canned whole fruits over the weekend. We now have about 100 jars of various fruit things on the counter. It was worth it, though, if only for the fact that I found four one-gallon bags of Idaho Huckleberries we hadn't eaten yet from the last time we went pickin'. Huckleberries look like blueberries, but the flavor is many times more intense. Think of the most luscious blueberries you've ever had, and add to that the flavor of the very best, sun ripened blackberries, and you'll come close. If you've never had Huckleberries (REAL huckleberries, not the so-called "garden huckleberries" you can buy seeds for in the catalogs) then you are seriously missing out. Take my word for it - you must fix this - and the sooner the better. Huckleberries are one of the very best things about living in this part of the country.

With what I canned this weekend, plus all the jarred fruit stuffs we already have in the storage room, I think we probably now have enough jam to last us about three or four years. I'm going to have to seriously find new things to do with some of our fruit this summer, or we'll soon have a jam backlog that no amount of biscuits can fix.


Kim said...

Where do you think I can get me a huckleberry? You've made me NEED to try one! Your jams and fruits look great. What a lot of work!

Idaho Locavore said...

Hi Kim!

Well, huckleberries grow wild in many places in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Washington, almost always at around 4,000-6,000 foot elevation, in cool, moist and highly organic forest soils. Unfortunately, the plants are pretty picky and for the most part have strenuously resisted cultivation. I know many agricultural departments and nurserymen are working on changing that, and I devoutly wish them the best of luck. I know *I* would give a large part of my yard over to huckleberry plantings if they were to become "tamed" enough for the garden!

If you don't live in or near any of these states, you *might* be able to find them in the freezer section somewhere. There are also various "taste of Idaho" companies that sell jams and such online, if you really want to try some but can't find any nearby. Of course, if you are ever here on vacation in late summer, then you just might get lucky if you keep your eyes open. Lots of the commercial food places in tourist spots buy huckleberries from berry pickers and feature them on the late summer menu. I see a lot of signs advertising "huckleberry milkshakes" and such in August, for instance.

At any rate, I sure hope you can track some down sometime and give them a try! Sweetened huckleberries over old-fashioned vanilla bean ice cream is to die for. Really. :-)