Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)


The bilberry is a tall shrub with angular, green branches. Its leaves are elliptic and have toothed margins. Their leaves drop for the winter. The bilberry plant creates light pink flowers in May–July. The bilberry is dark blue both on the outside and inside, it's globose in shape, and has a waxy surface or black and shiny in cases where the protective waxy layer is missing. 


Herb rich, mesic and sub xeric heath forests in southern Finland. In northern Finland, the bilberry is found in slightly drier and more barren heath forests. It prefers shady areas out of direct sunlight. The best places to look for bilberries are north facing slopes that stay in the shade, edges of logging areas and the banks of forest ponds.

Foraging season

The best time to pick bilberries is from the end of July until the beginning of September. 

Nutritional values

Bilberries contain vitamins C, E and are rich in fiber. The most significant health benefit of the bilberry, however, is the anthocyanin compounds it contains. The wild bilberry is three to four times richer in these flavonoids than is its relative the  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.


Vaccinium myrtillus has been used for nearly 1,000 years traditionally used to support health in many ways. There are many health claims related to bilberry at the moment in the European Food Safety Authority EFSA's register (EU Register of nutrition and health claims made on foods) waiting for verification.


Bilberry is most commonly used to make jams and pies as well as being used as is or as a dried crush in smoothies and yogurts. 

To be noted

The amount of bilberries have reduced by half since 1950s. The main reasons for this are clearcutting, tillage and unsustainable forestry.
Feel like tasting these gems of the far north? Try our Wild Blueberry Xylitol


wild Finnish blueberries

Photos: Aino Huotari