A while ago I posted about garden huckleberries and wonderberries and this week I finally got round to picking them. Although the wonderberries are softer and better eating, they were so soft and small and fiddly to pick that I soon gave up and turned to the garden huckleberries. Now these are bigger and easier to pick but they are really only ripe when they lose their mirror-like gloss. Unfortunately the birds, which I thought had been leaving them alone, seem to have discovered this and despite leaving the picking so late there were not many fully ripe berries. So I had to pick what was left, avoiding the green ones which are, reputedly, poisonous.
Picking is easy enough but the berries come off with the stalk and calyx unless really ripe, so once picked they had to be ‘gone through’ to clean them up, leaving them looking like the above photo.
They should be cooked before eating and the easiest way to do this is to stew them with apples. I put the chopped apples and garden huckleberries, with some sugar, in a pan and stewed them but, in retrospect it would have been better to put the berries in first for ten minutes because they take longer to go soft and I had to crush all the berries while they were cooking to make sure the two fruit were mixed. Once cooled I put them in individual pies and baked and they were OK though the berries do not really add much to the flavour of the apple.
I am also experimenting with some in a jar of gin. I froze the berries first in the hope it might soften them but these tough devils don’t give in so easily! After a few days with no colour change in the gin I decided to get the berries out and stab them with a fork! They are now soaking in the gin with a vanilla pod and some sugar and I hope to have some bright purple ‘huckleberry gin’ for Christmas.