We are enjoying regular strawberry, raspberry, and blackcurrant based smoothies courtesy of our garden at the moment. Whether foraging in our garden, or in the wild, it's always great to find food for free. On a recent trip up to North Wales we went for a walk in the woods, and found such a profusion of these wild bilberries that we took much longer on the walk than we thought we would. As we went on it seemed that they just got sweeter and tastier, and we couldn't restrain ourselves from stopping every few hundred metres to 'just have a few more'. There were so many of these berries that we had purple stained fingers and tongues for most of the walk. It seemed rude not to sample a few as we walked.
More locally, we've previously gorged on these bilberries on Bodmin moor and Dartmoor during walking and cycling trips. They are just the sort of free 'energy snack' that is needed during such activities, and are currently out there ripe and waiting for those who are willing to take a little walk on the wild side to track them down. Unlike most wild berries that seem to ripen in Autumn, bilberries are the first of the wild berries to ripen and reach their peak at the end of July, so be quick if you want to go out and about searching for them.
They go by many different names, depending on where you are in the country; bilberries, blaeberries, fraughans, whortleberries, whimberries, hurtleberries, wild blueberries, etc., and each region has it's own stories about this wild food. In Ireland they are celebrated with Fraughan Sunday, the last one in July, which is linked to the pre-Christian Celtic Festival of Lughnasa. They were previously picked commercially in many regions. For their size they also pack a rich nutritional punch. Interestingly, it seems the nutritional effects are increased by not consuming bilberries with dairy products.
If you find yourself out and about in the right environment, be sure to have a look for these tasty seasonal treats. They are well worth the effort of searching them out. We offer no ideas for recipes here because, quite frankly, they would never make it home. We prefer the wild eating experience. However, the Fraughan Sunday link above does offer some ideas if you do manage to resist eating them on the spot.