Its August, time for the annual bilberry harvest – this is no mean feat, they are tricky little blighter’s to pick, takes some time to harvest enough to make anything significant. But make no mistake they are worth the effort it takes. This afternoon I went for a walk, climbing up some steep yorkshire hills and picked some of these dark berries. The bushes are very abundant allowing you to pick a few and then move on, important because you do need to leave some on the bushes for the wildlife that rely on this food to get through the winter.
Now you may think I’m a little bit crazy – why not just buy some blueberries from the supermarket, takes less effort. If you have had the chance to taste individual bilberry pies that at one time were sold in bakeries in the North, you will know why – they are seriously delicious. The fruit is dark red – skin and pulp, high in anthocyanin, a flavonoid theorised to be protective against cancer – trials continue into its potential benefits. But you may not benefit from eating it only once a year, do it for the pleasure if nothing else. If you do decide to indulge, one word of warning do not get any on your clothes – they stain. Wash your fruit well prior to cooking, and do make sure you are collecting the right fruit – if in doubt don’t bother. Sometimes this fruit is available from northern markets in season (August/September) but picking them yourself gives you an extra pleasure that you have made some effort and have a very tasty healthy berry for your reward.
You can use them just as you would use blueberries, in yoghurt, on breakfast cereal or cooked in pies as right – little overcooked around the edges and already stained with berry juice but very tasty – a Sunday night treat to see out the Olympic games, traditional Yorkshire fayre from the county who brought home so many gold medals.