Bilberries (sometimes called billberry or whortleberry) are found in very acidic, nutrient-poor soils throughout the temperate and subarctic regions of the world. They are closely related to North American wild and cultivated blueberries and huckleberries in the genus Vaccinium. However, one difference is bilberries produce single or paired berries on the shrub instead of clusters, as the blueberry does. Bilberries are difficult to grow and are thus seldom cultivated.
Bilberry has been used in traditional European medicine for almost a thousand years.
The fruit is smaller than that of the blueberry but with a fuller taste. Bilberries are darker in colour, and usually appear near black with a slight shade of blue. While the blueberry's fruit pulp is light green, the bilberry's is red or purple. Bilberries are softer and juicier than blueberries, making them difficult to transport.
As a deep blue fruit, bilberry is high in antioxidant-rich flavanoid compounds called anthocyanidins, which have been shown to play a supporting role in maintaining good cardiovascular health and a strong immune system. Bilberries are also linked to eye health, in particular the possibility of slowing or reversing the effects of macular degeneration. Helpful for supporting healthy blood sugar levels, bilberry is also used for its beneficial effects in improving blood circulation, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and relief for nausea and indigestion. Bilberries are also known to be helpful for joint health, kidney and urinary tract health, menstrual cramps and diarrhea.
Enjoy bilberry powder blended in your favorite smoothie, yogurt or applesauce. Or shake it together with fruit juice or spring water for a refreshing drink.