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Bilberry

Edible Edible Summer Summer

Bilberries are very hard to gather in large amounts, not due to their size or quantity but because they taste so good we haven’t managed to leave a Bilberry spot without all our pickings being eaten and, it appears smeared all over our faces and hands.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Bilberry, Blaeberry, Whortleberry, Whinberry, Windberry, Myrtle Berry
Scientific Name Vaccinium myrtillus
Season Start Jul
Season End Sep
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Leaves

Small, ovate, shiny green slightly toothed leaves, often red or with red areas.

Flowers

Has tiny delicate pink/red flowers looking a bit like small unripe berries.

Fruit

The berries are very dark blue, almost black with a white ‘bloom’ that can make them appear lighter. There is often the remains of the flower surrounding a tiny ‘cog wheel’ on the end of the berry.

Habitat

Heaths, moors and some woodland, the Bilberry prefers acid rich, nutrient poor soil.

Possible Confusion

When the berries are out, combined with the leaf shape, it is difficult to confuse this plant with other heathland species.

Taste

Wonderful, like blueberries but with a deeper, richer flavour.

Frequency

Fairly common in acid rich woodland.

Collecting

It is traditional to start collecting Bilberries on the last Sunday in July or the first Sunday in August, depending where you are in the UK.

Medicinal Uses

There are reports of the RAF using Bilberries to help with night vision during bombing raids but this appears to be a story linked to carrots which were said to be used by the RAF in an attempt to conceal the fact Britain had radar. That said Bilberries have been used for different eye treatments through the ages.

The plant has also been used to treat chronic fatigue, gout, hemorrhoids, diabetes, urinary tract infections and osteoarthritis.

COMMENTS

7 comments for Bilberry

  1. jane davis says:

    Love Bilberries so much nicer than Blueberries…they are a faff to pick but get the kids into it and it’s just fun and if you have any left a bilberry tart is to die for…I’m salivating! Bring on the harvest!

  2. Pam Brierley says:

    Where do you find them? As a child in the 50s we always had them but they’re like gold dust now, my greengrocer has t seen any for over 2 years!

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Hi Pam, they are quite common but it is usually hard to spot your first berry as they hide among the leaves. they can be found on heaths, moors and some woodland and prefers acid rich, nutrient poor soil. Eric.

  3. Jane Frampton says:

    Recipes please for windberries ???

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Hi Jane, we are always looking for new recipes but with Bilberries I can never leave the woods with any apart from what I’ve eaten which is all of them. Eric.

  4. Rosemary Ellis says:

    Grew up eating teas of bilberry jam on cutrounds with clotted cream – all homemade by Mother. Non-Westcountry family would especially ask for this when visiting during the season – having helped us go out to gather them on Exmoor for more jam and pie making later. 🙂

  5. Melanie Cutts says:

    Windberry tart is one of my childhood favourites.

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