Surrounding the Lerryn River Valley and characteristically the majority of the secluded inlets dividing off the Fowey, Fal and Dart rivers are steep sided slopes covered in ancient Oak woodlands. The soil is thin, damp and acidid which dictates the flora of this area. Ferns, Heather and other acid loving plants thrive in these conditions with one of the defining species being the "Wild Bilberry"
Bilberry is any of several species of low-growing shrubs in the genus Vaccinium (family Ericaceae), bearing edible berries. The species most often referred to is Vaccinium myrtillus L., but there are several other closely related species. Bilberries are distinct from blueberries but closely related to them.
Other vernacular or local names
Bilberry (especially Vaccinium myrtillus) is also known in English by other names including blaeberry, whortleberry (ground) hurts, whinberry, winberry, windberry, wimberry, myrtle blueberry and fraughan. In several other European languages its name translates as "blueberry", and this may cause confusion with the related plants more usually known as "blueberry" in English, which are in the separate section Cyanococcus of the Vaccinium genus. In Europe including the British Isles the bilberry grows natively in the wild on acidic soils
Bilberries include several closely related species of the Vaccinium genus, including:
Vaccinium myrtillus L. (bilberry)
Vaccinium uliginosum L. (bog bilberry, bog blueberry, bog whortleberry, bog huckleberry, northern bilberry, ground hurts)
Vaccinium caespitosum Michx. (dwarf bilberry)
Vaccinium deliciosum Piper (cascade bilberry)
Vaccinium membranaceum (mountain bilberry, black mountain huckleberry, black huckleberry, twin-leaved huckleberry)
Vaccinium ovalifolium (oval-leafed blueberry, oval-leaved bilberry, mountain blueberry, high-bush blueberry).
Wild bilberries collected in Norway.
Bilberries 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. One characteristic of bilberries is that they produce single or paired berries on the bush instead of clusters, as the blueberry does. Blueberries have more evergreen leaves.
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 purple. While the blueberry’s fruit pulp is light green, the bilberry’s is red or purple, heavily staining the fingers and lips of consumers eating the raw fruit. Bilberries are extremely difficult to grow and are thus seldom cultivated. Fruits are mostly collected from wild plants growing on publicly accessible lands throughout northern and central Europe. Note that in Austria, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Switzerland, it is an everyman’s right to collect bilberries, irrespective of land ownership, with the exception of private gardens and nature reserves. Bilberries can be picked by a berry-picking rake like lingonberries, but are more susceptible to damage. Bilberries are softer and juicier than blueberries, making them difficult to transport. Because of these factors, the bilberry is only available fresh on markets and in gourmet stores, where in the latter they can cost up to 11 Euros per kilogram. Frozen bilberries however are available all year round in most of Europe.
In Finland, bilberries are collected from forests. They are eaten fresh or can be made in different jams and dishes. The famous one is the bilberry pie (Finnish: mustikkapiirakka, Swedish blåbärspaj). In Iceland, bilberries (known as aðalbláber, or "prime blueberry") grow predominantly in Vestfirðir and the surrounding area. In most of the country, one finds the closely related bláber occupying the same habitat. Both species are commonly found growing with dwarf birch and crowberries. Wild growth is vast compared to the population of Iceland and wildharvesting is legal. As a consequence, it is a popular activity in August when the berry season peaks. A popular use for bilberries is to eat them with skyr. In Ireland, the fruit is known as fraughan, from the Irish fraochán, and is traditionally gathered on the last Sunday in July, known as "Fraughan Sunday". Bilberries were also collected at Lughnasadh in August, the first traditional harvest festival of the year, as celebrated by Gaelic people. The crop of bilberries was said to indicate how well the rest of the crops would fare in their harvests later in the year. In Poland, the fruit are known as jagody. They are gathered in forests. They are hugely popular in Poland, either eaten fresh (mixed with sugar), put into sweet buns as a filling (such a bun is called a jagodzianka and is one of the most popular bakery products during summer in Poland), they are also used to make jams (known for their health benefits when treating someone with diarrhoea).
The fruits can be eaten fresh or made into jams, fools, juices or pies. In France and Italy they are used as a base for liqueurs and are a popular flavoring for sorbets and other desserts. In Brittany, they are often used as a flavoring for crêpes, and in the Vosges and the Massif Central bilberry tart (tarte aux myrtilles) is a traditional dessert. In Romania they are used as a base for a liquer called afinată – the name of the fruit in Romanian is afină. There is a North Korean Bog Bilberry Brandy (Paektusan Tuljjuksul) reportedly available at the DMZ
These are some of the fabulous memories from the time we spent in Lerryn (August 2013). A special place in our hearts can be found for this wonderful little village nestled amongst an ancient woodland covered valley, secluded and protected. When all had left in the evening and the village had retuned to the local people all that could be herd was a gentle Cornish "Babble" emanating from the Pub the "Anchor" Swallows darting over the water and coots, little egrets and divers could be herd echoing across the valley. A mist used to roll down the steep sided slopes as the sun started to rise early in the morning and as the sun set a blood red light filled the sky. The afternoons where alive with children, nets in hand, crabbing from the stepping stone causeway and families having cream teas and ice creams on the green supplied from a post office that seemed to be able to supply everything anybody could wish for! Above was a clear blue sky and a couple of buzzards would dominate the air, using the afternoon thermals to sore high above the valley.
Tagged: , Lerryn , Leryn and Stone Hendge