Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Cleaning Huckleberries and Blueberries

Coming home with several gallons of blueberries and red huckleberries that you picked is so-o satisfying! Thousands of small, self-contained orbs sparkling with taste and nutrition, a bucket of rich color and sustenance, the day of quenching your very, very deep gathering thirst condensed into a container of beautiful food that you are holding in your arms.

And it has all kinds of pretty leaves and bits of sticks in it. Nice color accents, but not nice in the pies and jam. Okay, don't let the cleaning portion of berry picking be a downer. Cleaning the berries doesn't have to take two whole days, but it will take some setup to clean them more efficiently. If you picked two quarts of berries then cleaning them by hand is faster, but if you came home with your five gallon bucket feeling heavy then you might keep reading.

There are three steps to this process: Blow out the leaves, rinse, and pick out any remaining stems. The first step is the one with the most setup.

You need

  • a couple of fans that are eventually going to get ruined (a box fan works well for one of them)
  • something to brace the box fan up
  • string or wire ties
  • a piece of 1/4" or 3/8" hardware cloth about 2'x3' (3/8" mesh is best, but harder to find)
  • duct tape to wrap the edges of the hardware cloth screen
  • a large, deep container to roll berries into (shallow bowls don't work because the berries roll right out the other side!)
  • a table or other flat surface
  • an extension cord

All of this stuff should be outside, because this gets messy. Berries will escape and get squished underfoot. Leaves will blow all over.

Setup on the back deck of the boat for the first step of cleaning blueberries and red huckleberries.

The box fan is tied to the laundry basket to keep it braced up. The second fan provides extra lift. Turn both fans on high and then sprinkle the berries onto the top of the screen. As the berries roll down then the leaves should blow away. Move the fans and adjust the angle of the screen to get the best lift.

Rolling red huckleberries down the screen. Bend the sides of the screen up to keep the berries going the right direction.

Tips...If the berries are wet then it helps to run them over the screen twice. Pick out sticks and berries that won't roll as you go. Tiny berries will fall through the screen to make you giggle when they go "ping!" in the fan.  Keep one hand on the screen to jiggle it to help the berries roll well. Shake out the screen when stuff gets stuck in it.

Step Two...

After blowing the leaves off then the screen is handy again. This part works well in a double sink, but can also be done using buckets and a garden hose.

Gently rolling the berries around while rinsing them.

Gently rolling the berries around while rinsing them.

Red huckleberry jam ready for labeling. I thank my wonderful sweetheart for preserving this goodness in jars.

Pour a small batch of berries onto the screen. Roll the berries around with one hand and move the sprayer with the other hand. Pick out any yucky looking berries. When the little bits of stick and moss are washed down through the screen then roll the berries into the colander.

If you were lucky enough to find 3/8" hardware cloth then a lot of the small, unripe berries will fall through and you won't have to pick them out.

As a final check (step 3) I pick through the berries for stems that didn't get knocked off in the first two steps.

The setup and cleanup take some effort, but devising this method has saved me so much time that it is well worth it.

Berry Goodness to You All!

Alaska Beachcomber

For a lighthearted look at blueberry picking - Q&A About Picking Blueberries in Southeast Alaska

Visit the Food and Medicine from Nature page to find more cool articles about foraging.

Salty-Sweet Beach Asparagus Slaw Recipe

Want to put a delicious, nutritious twist into your coleslaw? Very simply substitute blanched beach asparagus for half of the cabbage. That's it. But that makes for a really short blog post, so here is the recipe that I put together. I took it to a potluck and got good responses!

Salty-Sweet Beach Asparagus Slaw

All measurements are highly flexible! Be brave, have fun!

     Mix in a big bowl:

  • 3 cups blanched beach asparagus, chopped (see bottom of page for more info on blanching)
  • ½ head of cabbage chopped fine
  • 3 grated carrots
  • ½ cup chopped raisins
  • ½ cup chopped cashews

    Mix sauce in a small bowl:

  • 1.5 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sugar or to taste
  • ¼ cup vinegar or to taste

Mix up sauce, taste, adjust, then stir into salad.

Optional: Garnish the salad with a ring of the blanched beach asparagus around the top of the salad.

Need the condensed version of prepping beach asparagus? Here you go....

Beach asparagus prep: Pick over to remove any grass and seaweed. Rinse the beach asparagus in cold water. Drain.  For less salt let the beach asparagus soak in cold water for one to six hours.

Blanching beach asparagus: Get a large pot of water boiling rapidly. Put a few handfuls of beach asparagus in and time for 30 seconds for this salad. The short time helps keep it crunchy. Dip the beach asparagus out with a strainer and plunge it into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain, and if you have a salad spinner then give it a good spin to get the water out.

Go here to learn more about collecting and processing beach asparagus: Beach Asparagus, Sea Beans, Sea Asparagus

May you enjoy new flavors in your day!

Alaska Beachcomber


Simple Nettle Soup

Stinging nettle soup can be the perfect luscious leafy-green nutrition hit, and it is yummy, too. You can make it thick (my favorite) or thin. Adding small amount of your favorite tasty fat will help your body take up the nutrients.

Young stinging nettle plants.

Enjoy the rich, green color of this energizing dish!

This soup is a little bit different every time I make it, so don't bother to follow this fuzzy recipe too closely. Just throw the stuff together and it will turn out just fine. Remember to handle fresh stinging nettles with gloves.




Simple Nettle Soup

  • Half of a plastic produce bag or plastic grocery bag of fresh nettle leaves (about a gallon of loose leaves), or a pint of packed frozen nettles that you foraged and put up in the spring.
  • One chopped onion
  • About two tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cups chicken stock (or Chicken Better than Bullion mixed with water)
  • Optional: A dollop of sour cream
  • Optional: A pat of butter and a few tablespoons of maple syrup

In a heavy pot saute the chopped onion in the olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken stock and nettles and bring to a boil for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring a few times. Puree in batches in the blender. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream OR a pat of butter and a swirl of maple syrup.

  • More leaves and less stock makes a thicker soup.
  • If you cook the leaves too long then they will turn a sickly olive drab color. Still edible, but not as delightful as the rich green that nettle soup should be.
  • This soup holds for several days in the refrigerator.
  • Leftovers can be served hot or cold.
  • You can add a cup of cooked rice before pureeing the soup to make a very filling soup.

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)

You wanted a pretty picture of the soup in a bowl? I don't have one. Hey, I'm no wizard in the galley, and presentation is not my strong suit. If you submit a nice photo of the nettle soup that you make then I could publish it. So no appetizing food pictures today. Instead I have trippy nettle plants:

Or a duck.

Hey, she's a pretty duck. I wonder if she would like some nettle soup?

No, the nettles didn't make me this way. I've always been this way.

Love ya!

Alaska Beachcomber

Foraging Stinging Nettles

Processing and Using Nettles