Grab your buckets - it’s berry-picking season.
All throughout western Washington, from the Cascade Mountains stretching down the state to the rugged Olympics, reside some of the most incredible wild berries. From the famed huckleberry to the crimson red lingonberry (“mountain cranberry”) and the delicate thimbleberry, there’s a plethora of berry types to be found (at least 30 - not including their varietals), often tucked high up on alpine slopes or growing in lush open meadows.
For Tom LaMonte and family at Northwest Wild Foods, these longer, warmer days mean it’s time to lace up the hiking boots and hit the trails to forage for wild berries.
The LaMonte family has been heading up into the mountains to forage for well over 50 years. Their long-standing favorite? The elusive wild mountain blackberry - and for good reason. As the only blackberries native to the Pacific Northwest, and with an unforgettably sweet flavor, they also have very specific growing conditions.
These tiny wild blackberries are not farmed, as they only grow in Pacific Northwest foothills two to four years after an area has been clear-cut or burned out. Growing on a small vine reaching up to 20 feet long, the berries are much smaller than other species of blackberries, and have a much richer flavor.
To up the challenging ante, their growing season typically lasts for only four to six weeks from early July to mid-August, but the LaMonte family has seen years where the season lasted for one short week! Most seasoned pickers know these are one of the hardest berries to pick - contending with rough terrain and, of course, bears to get their hands on these treats. But, for those who have had a chance to try these berries, you may never be able to go back to a regular store bought blackberry again. In fact, the LaMontes think this berry makes the best pie ever, and we have to agree.
In our Wild-Foraged Berry Slab Pie, we use the LaMonte’s Washington-picked blackberries (and a few other incredible ones!), for our re-imagination of a classic berry pie à la mode. The berries are gently simmered into an ooey-gooey filling, then slathered across crispy bits of double-baked pie crust and strewn about a salted vanilla ice cream, Jackson Pollock-style.