Bilberry: A Bit of Botany
a bit of botanical information on bilberry

Billberry, a member of the Ericaceae family, is a small perennial shrub and is one of the wild predecessors of the North American blueberry and is used similarly, but has a more concentrated flavor and fragrance. It has wiry angular branches, rarely over a foot high, bearing globular pink or white wax-like flowers and black berries (there is a variety with white fruit), which are covered when quite ripe with a delicate grey cast. The leathery leaves are at first rosy, then yellowish-green, and in autumn turn red and are very ornamental. The globular fruit has a flat top, and is about the size of a black currant, fruit grow solitary, not in bunches.Fresh bilberries taste slightly acidic.

common names
& nomenclature

In Scotland, 'Blea-berry,' is from an old North Country word, 'blae,' meaning bluish—referring to the color of the fruit. The name Bilberry is derived from the Danish 'bollebar,' meaning dark berry.

Also known as:
blueberry, black whortleberry, burren myrtle, dyeberry, huckleberry, hurleberry, whinberry, whortleberry, wineberry, blaeberry, windberry, winberry, myrtle blueberry, fraghan, and european blueberry

Bilberry, the berry ancestor
Bilberry: Where in the World
habitat and range for bilberry

Vaccinium myrtillus is found natively in Europe, northern Asia, Greenland, Western Canada, and the Western United States.

Bilberry: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing bilberry

Bilberry usually grows in heaths, meadows, and moist coniferous forests. Its growth is best in moderate shade.

Bilberry grows best in moist soil, but is often found in very acidic, nutrient-poor soils.

Sow seeds in late winter in a greenhouse using a lime-free potting mix and only just cover the seed. Stored seed might require a period of up to 3 months cold stratification.

Once they are about 5cm tall, transplant the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse for at least the first winter. Plant them outside into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

May also propagate by cuttings or layering, but both methods are slow and difficult, taking up to 18 months or more.

Harvest green leaves and fruit in late Summer/early Autumn, use or freeze fruits right away as they damage easily and can spoil.

If not used fresh, fruit can be dried or frozen. Dry the leaves in a single layer on screens, store dried leaves (whole or cut) and dried fruit in a cool, dry place.

Bilberry leaves are not to be used for lengths longer than 3 weeks at a time, as it can cause symptoms of poisoning.

Bilberry: The Rest of the Story
bilberry history, folklore, literature & more

using bilberry to keep your vision brilliant
Billberry is a fruit that many people have used to make delicious tarts, pies, and jellies. It tastes very similar to blueberries and looks similar to them, too. However, bilberry also has an important medicinal use—it actually supports good vision.

This is especially true for people who are dealing with the complications that come from diabetes. Bilberry is thought to be full of antioxidants that help to fight the effects of environmental pollution that can cause people to age at a faster rate. This is one way it's thought to protect vision.

People who suffer from cataracts may also find that bilberry is a good herb to take. It will prevent problems that come from cataracts and allow vision to be more vibrant and brilliant.

In addition to helping eyesight, bilberry is also used to treat problems with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), bruising, and hemorrhoids. That's because it works well to improve the circulatory system.

Bilberry is also a good remedy for problems with an upset stomach and diarrhea. It can also be used to treat problems with inflammation of the mouth, throat, and stomach. All in all, bilberry is a good antioxidant that reduces inflammation and improves circulation.

Bilberry can be taken in many ways. Some people choose to continue to use the fresh berries or dried berries for medicinal purposes. Berries can be extracted for their juice and dried berries can be crushed into a powder that can be used in a pill.

The dried fruit can be eaten by itself along with a glass of water as well. It can also be used as a mouthwash with a decoction of dried berry. When it comes to treating diarrhea, it's important to use dried berries. Some people have found that the fresh berries actually make the condition worse instead of better.

If you suffer from diabetes or if you have other health problems that are contributing to poor eyesight, you'll certainly want to keep bilberry on hand. It can actually prevent problems with vision.