Forager’s Delight: Evergreen Huckleberry Jam

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Visiting family who live on an island in Puget Sound, we noticed an abundance of tiny blue and black berries growing on six foot tall shrubs. With the wonders of modern technology and the wisdom of our grandparents, we were able to verify that these were our lovely little native plant- the evergreen huckleberry. Thankfully we had some help picking – as the berries were tiny, and our toddler charges a hefty berry tax for her participation (one berry into the bucket = one handful into the mouth). After about an hour we had filled a medium size bowl.

I had never eaten these berries before, let alone cooked with them. I considered making a pie but ultimately decided jam was the best way to share their sweet blueberry-esque  flavor with friends, and enjoy it ourselves for weeks to come. This ended up being one of the best jams I’ve made. The only pain was de-stemming the berries.

My advice to others would be: these little buggers are tiny and you end up having to go through thousands of them. It is probably a good idea to pay close attention as you pick, and try to toss the stems and bad berries before they get into the bowl.

This is the first time I’ve ever used low sugar pectin- thanks Emily for the advice! It created a nice firm batch of jam. I used six cups of wild huckleberries, four cups of sugar, and one packet of low sugar pectin. That’s it! I heated the berries and mashed with a potato masher. This ended up releasing the lovely purple juice, and about half of the berries remained whole, so the final product was something like a combination of a jam and a preserve.

We liked it so much we decided to add some bushes to our yard! I love native plants because they are so low maintenance, and tend to compliment our local wildlife. For example, these are somewhat deer resistant plants. They make a lovely shrub or hedge and can do well with heavy rains or dry shade. Awesome. Unfortunately they are nearly impossible to transplant. However, we were able to find them at several area nurseries. After we brought them home, one of the baby bushes actually produced a handful of berries. We will hope for more next year!

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