by PWPA Member, Lee Humphries

I remember climbing up T.V. mountain, a small sand mound with a reception tower, racing my cousins, 3 quart baskets in hand, for the first blueberry at the very top of the hill. Those low-bush blueberries loved the acidic soil in the lichen carpeted bush at our cottage at Nellie Lake, just south of James Bay, Ontario. Munching on flat toast as Gran only had a grilled cheese iron since the toaster broke, slathered with boobully jam is a full sense memory for me.  Any day in the late summer she would bake a pie if you picked enough for jam as well. That’s a whole basket!

Climbing up the mountains in Peachland’s watershed you will find amazing things not seen in the hot valley floor. While the valley bottom relies on irrigation, the upper expanses and the array of edibles depend on location and collaboration for the water needed to grow and production varies greatly year to year. READ MORE Elevation plays a key role. Make sure you take a berry basket!

Some of the treats above Peachland include mountain strawberries, saskatoons, high bush cranberries, salmon berries, thimbleberries, rosehips (shown on right in Saskatoon Berry picking Basket) – even low bush blueberries!

High on the Favourites List in the sub-alpine is the Huckleberry – a cousin of the blueberry, with more seeds and tartness, and a funny little saucer dip on the top. Growing at higher elevations of 3500+, they prefer to be not too shaded and not too exposed. They do enjoy the acidic soil of the Okanagan’s pine forests. High in Vitamin C and antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory in nature, Huckleberries can be dried to enjoy off-season or used in baking and preserving. They even work as a natural indigo dye of natural fabrics. High natural pectin means you can just place some berries in a pot with sugar, a pinch of salt and a tsp of lemon juice and cook down into a jam. The leaves can be brewed into a tea and enjoyed hot or cold and is good for heart health.  Or…you can enjoy them as a bear does, sitting down, rolling mittfulls into your mouth, resulting in a purple tongue.

Once you find a patch of Huckleberries, be sure to NOT TELL ANYONE!