James Wood is a renowned wild food forager who runs his unique and deeply engaging wild food cookery and foraging courses at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School. Here he gives us a taste of his passion for nature’s bounty.
As I stand at the top of Tegg’s Nose Country Park, in Cheshire, being battered by high winds and rain, I’m surrounded by heather and intertwined among it I see a dark green shrub...
I reach down to lift up the low growing canopy of this shrub to find dark purple glowing jewels hanging gracefully. Once squeezed, they explode the most amazing purple all over my hands and I find within seconds my tongue, teeth and lips are purple as I sit enjoying the delight that is bilberries.
Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) are a hairless low growing undershrub, covering large areas of land. They grow to a maximum height of 50cm, but can look taller when growing on sharply angled ground. The flowers, appearing in clusters April to June, are globular or urn shaped, greenish turning pink with a length and width of 5 to 6mm. The bright green leaves are oval shaped, often with a wavy margin and are finely toothed. The purple to black fruit ripens from August through to September, growing within the whole shrub, making them more difficult to pick.
Please only forage for plants you have been able to positively identify as safe. If in doubt, leave it alone.
Bilberry and Apple Tartlets
These tartlets are quick and easy to make, giving the amazing deep flavour of bilberries in a mouthful – have them as a snack or serve with ice cream as a dessert.
Makes 6 tartlets
Preparation and Cooking: 10 mins
2 large bramley apples, peeled and chopped to 1cm cubes
2 tbsp caster sugar
6 pre-made/cooked tartlet cases (fill as many as you can)
1. To make the filling: In a pan place the bilberries, bramley apples and sugar and bring to a medium heat until it’s all softened up. This will take about 5 minutes.
2. Pour the filling in to as many tartlet cases as it will fill. If you’re using mini cases you will fill more of course.
3. Enjoy with a cup of tea, or let them cool and serve with fresh vanilla ice cream.