Lucky me, once again back in Finland and the first thing my friend offered to me on breakfast was a cup of bilberries – I was in heaven. OK, the weather in Finland might not be all that nice at this time of the year; the sky is gray and the ground is wet from the melting snow. However, in a month from now the temperatures will go up, the snow will be gone and it will be dry. That’s when the days will already be much longer than the night and the nature is waking up after the long winter.
So, what are these bilberries? Some might refer to them as “wild blueberries”. However, even thought this gives a good general idea of what bilberry is, it is not all that correct. The European bilberry and the North American blueberry belong to Vaccinium genus of shrubs, among cranberries, lingonberries and others, and to the same subgenera but to different sections. Bilberry belongs to section V. Myrtillus, whereas blueberry belongs to section V. Cyanocuccus. Thus, it would be more correct to refer to bilberry as the “wild European cousin of the (cultivated) blueberry”.
There are some major differences of the two cousins, especially in the nutritional content. I’ll let the following graphs do the talk:
Source: Koponen et al. 2007. Hellström et al. 2009.
Source: USDA 2007. Koponen et al. 2007.
Source: Koponen et al. 2007.
Source: Halvorsen BL, Holte K, Myhrstad MC, Barikmo I, Hvattum E, Remberg SM, Wold A-B, Haffner K, BaugerØd H, Andersen LF, Moskaug JØ, Jocobs DR, Blomhoff jr and R. 2002. A systematic screening of total antioxidants in dietary plants. J Nutr 132:461-471
“Bilberries contain vitamins C and E. They are also a good source of fibre. The most significant health benefit of the bilberry, however, is the anthocyanin compounds it contains. The wild bilberry is up to four times richer in these flavonoids than is the related highbush blueberry, a cultivated plant. The blue pulp of the wild bilberry is full of the pigment anthocyanin, while the highbush blueberry has a light-coloured pulp.”
The flesh of the bilberry is much darker than that of blueberry.
For more information about bilberry, visit Arctic-Flavours.fi