Sunday, January 23, 2022

"We Buy Hucks"

The headline is one of the two signs we saw commonly during our summer vacation in Idaho and Montana (glaciers are still there in the national park and distantly visible from the road, but will be stagnant blocks of ice before long). The other sign of course was "Trump 2020" or its even-worse disease variant, "Trump 2024".

"We Buy Hucks" was the far more welcome sign seen at cafes, restaurants, and elsewhere, and means they'll buy huckleberries from anyone who can provide them. Huckleberries are a wild, primarily western North American relative of blueberries. They're wild in two senses: first that people in the area are wild to eat them, and that they're wild-harvested. Despite being a widespread plant, domestication has not worked well - they grow slowly and crops are unreliable, so it's still cheaper to just go into a forest and find ones producing berries.

To me this represents a path mostly not taken for how we interact with nature - sustainable consumption of a wild product by large numbers of people. If American elms, chestnuts, and passenger pigeons were still around today, a significant percentage of our diets could have come directly from nature. With huckleberries still fitting that role in a minor form, they create an economic and cultural incentive to preserve wild places. 

People still hunt and fish of course. A small percentage of hunters and fishers actually come out ahead economically from their activities or otherwise obtain a significant number of calories directly from the wild. Maybe it can be even more important, and we can support buying hucks and other products as a way of protecting the Half-Earth for nature.

One small way of doing this: if good fortune brings you to Glacier National Park, visit St. Mary Village hotel on the east side and buy the huckleberry-chocolate chip cookie, baked on site. You won't regret it. 


CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Commercial huckleberrying prevents local amateurs and bears from accessing this delicious natural treat. It is a big blow to the environment.


As the price of hucks and bucks are roughly the same, and berries pair well with venison, Brian should take his rifle along when the hunting and gathering seasons coincide.

Don Gisselbeck said...

I'd love to see some studies on that. To ease your mind a little, I still have little trouble finding huckleberries in Western Montana if I go anywhere that involves significant hiking.

Unknown said...

CIP, I suppose there could be occasional disappointments for locals gathering their own. Maybe some areas closer to population centers should have a daily maximum that you can harvest. As for bears, I doubt it's a big deal but I'm open to information.