As summer fruit begins to ripen, its time to get outside and start foraging. Anne Merry, our Food for Life Get Together's Regional Engagement Officer, tells us about the joys of bilberry foraging with her family.
With July soon to turn to August we decided to take a walk out to see how far along the bilberries were and if there were any ready for picking. The bilberry is our native blueberry and is common across Europe, and we’re lucky to have acid rich moorland and woodland in Kirklees, so there are a number of places in which we can usually find some.
Now, I don’t know if you have ever been foraging for bilberries (known in other parts of the country as whinberry, blaeberry, whortleberry etc), but if you have you will know how good at hiding they are. There is something magical about their dark blue colouring that makes them invisible against the dark green leaves of the plant and the shadows of the ground. However, once you’ve got your eye in you see them everywhere!
Bilberries are notoriously difficult to pick… it is not that the act of picking is difficult, oh no, it is the act of them reaching your pot. They are so very tasty that it is difficult to stop eating them once you start. They also give you away, the dark purple juice stains your fingers and your lips even when taking the sneakiest bite. I can remember dearly picking bilberries with my family as a child (see picture right). And I can hear my dad, half exasperated, half laughing, telling me to stop eating them from my pot. I repeat this mantra with my own children, athough the older two also know many delights can be made if the harvest makes it to the kitchen, so they now pick more and eat less.
We were lucky to bring home 6 ounces to be made into muffins and, at an estimate, Eilidh ate another 2 ounces as we walked along 😊.
It is just the beginning of the season and there will be many more to pick in the coming weeks. Patience is key to the forager’s success, but with an expanse of wildflower rich heathland around our favourite spot, it is no hardship to spend an hour or two there.