Bilberry Pie And Bilberry Leaf Tea

bilberrypiethumb.jpgBilberries are good this year - let's take a look at a couple of uses for this plant - Bilberry Tart and Bilberry Leaf Tea.

What Are Bilberries?

Vaccinium myrtillus - Bilberries, also known as Blaeberries, Whortleberries, Hurts or Whinberries are - in all but name - northern European blueberries. They're smaller than American highbush blueberries - with fruits up to about one centimetre in diameter, growing on wiry plants that range in size from ankle-high scrub to willowy, waist-high bushes.

The fruits are quite acidic in taste, delicately aromatic and juicy - the pulp and juice of the fruit is a deep maroon-purple colour throughout, indelibly staining everything it touches.

bilberrypie1.jpg

Bilberry Tart

This is a really delicious tart, deep and packed to the brim with fruit - easy to make, but sure to impress.

Start with a 9 inch sweet shortcrust pastry case (I'm not going to bother with the recipe for the pastry, as it's easy to look up - or if you want, you can easily just buy a precooked flan case)

Put about 350g of fresh bilberries in a saucepan - add the juice of one lemon and about 75g of sugar.

Bring to a gentle simmer, starting over a very low heat. The berries will burst and release a lot of juice - as this happens, you can turn up the heat a little and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste and add a little more sugar if you think it's not sweet enough, but don't over-sweeten or you will overwhelm the delicious crisp acidity of the fruit.

While the fruit is heating, put four teaspoons of cornflour in a cup and add a quarter cup of cold water - stir to mix to liquid consistency.

The moment the fruit starts to bubble, pour in the cornflour mixture, stirring vigorously as you add it - keep stirring and heating and in the space of less than a minute, the fruit mixture will thicken dramatically.

Remove from the heat and pour the contents of the pan into the flan case - use a spatula to scrape everything out of the pan, then (if necessary) spread the fruit mixture out evenly in the pastry case.

Leave to cool for at least an hour - ideally longer - it should set to a thick, silky jelly-like texture - just thick enough not to run away when the pie is cut into wedges. Serve with something creamy - for example ice cream, clotted cream or mascarpone cheese.

bilberrypie2.jpg

Bilberry Leaf Tea

bilberryleaf1.jpgThis was a bit of an experiment - some of my wild food books mention bilberry leaf tea in passing, or talk a little about the supposed health benefits of drinking it, but say little or nothing about the method of preparing it, or what it tastes like.

So at the end of a productive day of berry-picking, I cut (from a place where the bushes were growing in very great abundance) a couple of sprigs of bilberry leaves to take away. On returning home, I stood them in an empty glass and placed it on a windowsill to dry.

bilberryleaf2.jpgThe next day - quicker than I expected - the leaves had dried out. They were crisp and rustling, but not crumbly or brittle.

So I set about making my first cup of bilberry leaf tea.

bilberryleaf3.jpgI picked about 20 leaves and placed them in a mug of boiling water.

I left this to steep for 5 minutes, then poured it through a strainer into a fresh mug, to which I added a thin slice of lemon.

bilberryleaf4.jpgThe end result is a pale straw-green beverage with a pleasant, slightly fruity aroma.

To taste, the drink is a little similar to green tea - pleasantly astringent and refreshing, ever so slightly tannic with an intriguing fresh, fruity-leafiness - something like a blend of tea, green apple and the subtle forest aroma of the bilberries themselves.

Altogether a very nice and refreshing drink.

bilberryleaf5.jpgThe dried leaves strip very easily from the twigs - although if I was picking them in greater quantity, I would not have cut whole stalks - as I suspect the leaf-stripped stems would sprout new leaves if left on the plant.

The dry leaves can be stored in an airtight jar for later use.

 

Comments

1. On Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 21:37 by spandrel

Bilberry tips are best for tea, picked in the spring. Similar to ordinary green tea, very niceSolid tine combs are the best for picking. Mine came from Austria, and I've seen German ones for sale online. Tines are heavy gauge 3mm nails, gap is 5-6mm.

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