Three quarts gathered today. This is Vaccinium membranaceum, the black huckleberry. They are just starting to get ripe at the mid-elevations. I sampled quite a few to make sure they weren’t too tart. I’ve eaten countless huckleberries in my life, and can’t get over how complex the flavor is. It’s as if I am eating this particular year’s sunshine and rain and wind and touch of the bee that pollinated the flower; this particular soil with its combination of volcanic ash and punky decayed conifers. The soil seems to remember the skyline logging in the 1980s that opened the forest to the sun so these bushes can thrive here. The flavors burst in the mouth in layers, and I concentrate to taste what they are telling me.
I always silently thank the bushes for their fruit. Once I attended a huckleberry feast at a Yakama longhouse. There was drumming and singing and lots of food. The Yakama people have a long history with the huckleberries of the Cascades. In my Protestant English-speaking heritage, we thank God for food. The Indians cut out the middle man and thank the plants and animals directly, which maybe acknowledges that God is in the small things we eat.