Monday, September 7, 2009

Fall Fruit in the Pacific Northwest

In additon to my box of Rama nectaines, this is the fruit I got at the Seattle University District farmers' market on Saturday. The raspberries came from Rent's Due Ranch, the Italian plums a generous git from Wade Bennett of Rockridge Orchards, and the unique varieties of grapes, pears and apples are from Grouse Mountain, in Chelan Washington. Finally, the mountain huckleberries were entirely an impulse purchase from Jeremy Faber at Found and Foraged.

I stood in line to buy chanterelle mushrooms and a very pregnant woman in front of me was buying huckleberries--a lot of them, more than I'd seen anyone else purchase at once. "So many huckleberries," I'd blurted out. She turned to me and said, "We ate six pounds of these last week; I hope to at least freeze some this week." Then she grabbed a handful of berries and ate them all at once, shoveling them in shamelessly.

Her hunger for local treasures was contagous and I immediately wanted huckleberries. These tiny local berries are sometimes mistaken for wild blueberries, but a huckleberry has a tougher skin and more astringent flavor. In The Berry Bible, Janie Hibler says the blue or Cascade huckleberry has the most "prized flavor." And bears love them too, so hikers and foragers should be aware that when they harvest huckleberries, they're taking a bear's food so be aware of these hungry wild diners in the area. Heibler says to eat them huckleberries fresh or use them in pancakes, muffins or desserts. She adds that their flavor is enhanced when they are heated with just a pinch of sugar and orange or lemon juice. I like them in smoothies with something sweet like blueberries, peaches or nectarines:

(Serves 2)
1 cup huckleberries
1 pitted nectarine
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 or 2 tablespoons almond or hazelnut butter
1 tablespoon flax seed oil
1 ripe banana
1 cup ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pour into two glasses and enjoy.

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