As I pulled up a chair to the bar in a nameless brewery in a nameless old mining town in a nameless state close to home, I caught a look of frustration from the pint slinger behind the bar. They were using the world’s tiniest spoon to shovel one of the world’s tiniest berries into a frosty glass. An epic demonstration of pure speed and chaos as the line of thirsty customers at the door grew in size.
Yanking on the tap handle with the glass at a slight tilt, the bartender started to fill the glass with beer. We both were shocked as we watched the beer foam over the rim and the precious berries and frothy head hit the ground at an astonishing speed. Then I decided to be the barkeep’s huckleberry by suggesting that they put they berries in AFTER the beer. That seemed to offer some hope and relief for an issue that had been plaguing them for longer than they were willing to admit.
Ever since the owner dropped off the freshly picked berries from some hidden picking spot the day before, the crew had trouble with the beer foaming up. The seasonal beer was a Huckleberry Shandy garnished with “real huckleberries”. I’m not sure if the quotations were some local inside joke or a jab at another brewery NOT using real hucks in their beer. Or just another case of poor use of quotations. However, that was a topic I chose not to breach…
My mind couldn’t escape that little Finn of a berry however. I started to feel bad for the bartender, and anyone else whose professional careers have been negatively affected by this tiny northwest culinary terror. That was THE moment I started to hate huckleberries. All the years that chefs felt obligated to make huckleberry barbeque sauce, that bartenders were forced to muddle huckleberry mojitos, or that we all have bought those little jars of huckleberry jam at the airport with the moose on the label for friends and family as a last minute I-definitely-thought-about-you-my-whole-vacation gift. Or all that other crap that goes along with the hype around such an elusive little drupe.
They can’t be cultivated; the season shifts every year. Everyone has a secret hiding spot, local legends passed down through folklore but whose locations are not to be inquired about. And that’s if you decide to go picking for them yourself! Find someone back at sea-level with a bounty of berries for sale and you are likely to spend anywhere between $65 and $100 per gallon.
It was all too much for me to handle. I started to get angry.
I wanted to start a campaign to educate people that there are plenty of other tasty berries that can be featured on our seasonal and local menus that deserve their stories to be told. The bearberry? The chokeberry? The Cloudberry? The noble thimbleberry? Who is bringing awareness to why the gooseberry was federally banned in the early 1900’s?!
Perhaps I am speaking one huckleberry over my persimmon here, but I just have hate for huckleberries…unless they are in milkshakes. Those are delicious.
Article Written By Joshua Martin