Monday, 1 August 2011

Bilberry Foraging [...and Happy Yorkshire Day!]

It was a lovely day today so we decided to go foraging.  As it's that time of year where a walk through the contryside  reveals all sorts of things ripening in the bushes and hedges, it seemed appropriate to grab our walking shoes, a flask of tea and go hunting for delicious ingredients that can be turned into all manner of things.

When I was a child, I remember that from about July to September, our house was full of the aroma of jam-making, pickling and baking, as blackberries, raspberries, beetroot, onions and other produce were harvested and turned into all manner of goodies.  Whilst we were out today, we had a whole hillside that was covered in bilberries to ourselves.  It seems as if no-one is interested in picking these delicious little things any more.

A deserted hillside, full of hidden treasures!
Maybe people are worried about eating poisonous things (and please, if you do go out picking wild berries, make sure you know what it is you are after!) or maybe people don't know what they are looking for, but it does seem like a shame, although the less people go picking wild fruit, the more remain for me I guess!

Bilberries are like blueberries, although a little smaller and often a bit less sweet, and they are quite a rare sight in shops, although they appear to have been classed as a 'super-fruit' and thus command high prices in health food shops.  Our haul, for an hour's picking by two people was about 600g

Bilberries on the plant
Of course, bilberries are only found in certain areas - mine were in Yorkshire, picked on Yorkshire Day, to be made into Mucky Mouth Pie later (recipe to follow..) but it's pretty easy to find out what grows wild in your neck-of-the woods, and brambles or blackberries grow wild pretty much everywhere!

Unripe Bilberries are a red-ish colour.

Picking the berries can be a bit time-consuming, but when the sun is shining and the view is spectacular, who's clock watching?  And the result of all this work is tasty pies, jams and puddings, so what are you waiting for?  Get out into the fields and hedge-rows and start picking!

Oh, you might get a bit mucky though, and fingers rapidly turn red

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