Yesterday I had a sweet encounter with a tiny blue pebble with lovely flavor. Little huckleberries are wild blueberries that can be found on rocky hilltops. They like to grow in the well-drained soil of this terrain, and also thrive growing under pine trees, as I assume they like acidic soil like their more cultivated blueberry cousin.
We do not have any huckleberries growing on our property. We do have rolling hills, but not quite the rugged landscape that they seem to prefer, though we do have wild blackberries and gooseberries. Huckleberries are a little rarer around here, so it is a treat to find a patch and take advantage of this culinary treat.
My mom and I, along with the boys, found ourselves down in northwest Arkansas yesterday visiting a family cemetery where my father and others from his family are buried. It is nestled in the hilly terrain near the War Eagle area East of Rogers where Beaver Lake runs. When first married my mom and dad had a farm near this area. I asked mom if we could stop where she had once picked huckleberries 40 years earlier and see if we could find any. To our delight there were bushes all along the roadside filled with the just ripening crop of huckleberries.
My mom and I seem to be genetically inclined to be persistent gatherers. It is like instinct pulling us to always forage and store-up any useful fruits. So, we found a container and started hunting and picking. It was nice to see it unfold into an opportunity for Mom to reminisce about the old days and living in those hills, the people they knew and all that her and Dad did in the days of their early marriage.
We stole away with more than a cup of those small berries. I made a batch of huckleberry muffins. Any blueberry muffin recipe will work for huckleberries, their petite size making them perfect for muffins and pancakes as well. I like the recipe included in the “Cupcake Cafe” cookbook.
Grease 12 large or 18 smaller muffin cups, or line the cups with muffin papers. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine the sugars, eggs sour cream, butter and buttermilk. Toss the blueberries with the flour mixture. Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until just combined. Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full, and bake for about 25 minutes, until a cake tester or straw inserted in the center comes out clean or the muffin feels springy when pressed gently with your finger.
photo credit: huckleberry bush (top), my mom standing by the huckleberries (middle), huckleberry muffins (bottom)