Protecting their turf: Huckleberry pickers know when they’ve str - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Protecting their turf: Huckleberry pickers know when they’ve struck purple gold

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LOON LAKE, Wash. -

It’s huckleberry season in the Inland Northwest, and pickers are staking their territory.

“You can take the huckleberry out of the mountains,” wrote Asta Bowen in her 1998 handbook, The Huckleberry Book. “But you can’t take the mountains out of the huckleberry.”

It’s that quality described by Bowen that makes huckleberries one of the most cherished, and sought-after berries in the region.

Huckleberry pickers typically won’t find the tarter, sweeter, and juicer version of the blueberry until they reach elevations beyond 4,000 feet.

The popular summertime fruit is elusive due to the fact that it cannot be produced in mass quantities, so if you want huckleberries, you’ll have to pick them yourself.

“I pick a cup or two, take them in to the house, wash them, measure them, sit down and take a break,” said huckleberry picker Tamra Dschaak. “And then I do it again.”

Dschaak has been picking huckleberries for 18 years. She says she’s not as competitive as most pickers, but still knows when she’s struck gold.

“These [huckleberries] grow on their own,” said Dschaak. “You can’t buy a plant and plant it in your yard and expect it to do that, they don’t do that.”

Dschaak lives on eight acres of land near Loon Lake. She says she’s seen people on her property hunting for huckleberries, but she usually doesn’t mind.

“It's usually the people that live out here already,” she said. “They’re not picking in mass quantities and bringing in hoards of people and then selling them out on the highway.”

Dschaak hasn’t had to kick anyone off her land yet, but says she prepared to.

“Not everybody is going to care for the plants as they're picking as I am,” said Dschaak. “And I'm very particular about that because I want them to be here next year.”

Huckleberries sell for between $45 and $65 per gallon.

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