The bilberry belongs to the heather family, along with the cranberry and the blueberry. The bluish black berries grow in June (and sometimes a second crop in August/September) on the stalks of this small plant, after its delicate pink flowers have finished blooming. The dwarf shrub is most at home in moist, acidic, non-calcareous soil, for example in open woodland and on heath and peatland.
Many health benefits have been ascribed to the bilberry, for example it is said to be good for the eyes and to prevent night blindness. It is also prescribed to people who suffer from type 2 diabetes and are vulnerable to cornea problems. The berries are also said to be good for the digestion and blood circulation.
Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus), bluecrop blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), wild blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) — at first sight they all look alike. However the bilberry has a different colour pulp, flavour and growth habit. The fresh bilberry has red pulp, is less sweet and according to connoisseurs, more flavourful than the bluecrop blueberry. What’s more, bilberries grow individually (rather than in bunches) on the shrub.
Berrico supplies all three of these berry varieties dried, sweetened with either sugar or apple juice concentrate. The rich flavour of these berries makes them a delicious match for fresh-sweet red fruits.
Fun fact: in the 16th century Europeans made a syrup of fresh bilberries with honey. This was used to treat diarrhea.