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Why do we not hear about Winberries?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 2 Nov 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Why Do We Not Hear About Winberries?

Q.When are winberries in season and why do we not hear alot about them anymore?

(Mrs Carolyn Briggs-Conway, 6 October 2008)

A.

The first part of your question is a lot easier to answer than the second – if you’re looking to harvest some wild winberries, then I’m afraid you’ve almost certainly missed your chance. In most years, they can be collected from July to September, though depending on the weather and whereabouts you are in the country that can stretch a bit in either direction.

Local Names

As to why we don’t hear much about them anymore – the answer is probably because they also have a number of other names, which seem to have become more commonly used. Winberries – sometimes written as whinberries, whimberries or whynberries – are also known as blaeberries, bilberries, whortleberries or huckleberries (as in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn). Originally largely regional names, people obviously kept the name for these delicious berries that they were used to when they moved, so there is now considerable confusion as a result, with a lot of people firmly convinced that they are all different fruits!

Throw in the influence of other countries “folk” names for winberries – especially Finland and Scandinavia where they have been historically used – and things get even more complicated, with the likes of “blåbær” being normally translated as “blueberry”.

A Little Bit of Botany

Along with the likes of cranberries, blueberries and lingonberries, winberries belong to the botanical genus Vaccinium, which is part of the Heath or Ericaceous family of plants (Ericaceae).

The group contains around 450 species, most of which live in the cooler and more westerly parts of the northern hemisphere – though a few are found south of the equator. Just to complete the picture of horticultural confusion, many of these species can hybridise – and then goodness only knows what you’d call them!

Changing Times

Until fairly recently, there were plenty of recipes for winberries, particularly amongst country-folk, but with the growth of supermarkets and imported “proper” fruit, like many of the old staples, the blaeberry seems to have fallen out of favour – at least until now.

In one of those ironic twists, as society has become more concerned about organic and environmental issues – things like food miles and how our food is produced has started to bring many of the old favourites back in fashion.

While we may not all start cooking the rabbit, grouse, venison or pigeon for which winberries once formed the traditional accompaniment, these wild berries may yet become more popular once again and then you’ll hear more about them – whatever you call them yourself!

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I am 83 and now live in Australia. As youngsters my wife and I grew up in Abercarn and Newbridge in the Ebbw Valley. We have fond memories of our years in the valleys. Wimberry and blackberry picking were great outdoor activities. The very top of the Gwyddon Valley was a good place for Wimberries. A place of peace, quiet and solitude and outstanding beauty.
Shroppy - 2-Nov-19 @ 3:47 AM
Whimberries collect and eaten today from the Shropshire Hills! Delicious!
KEW22 - 1-Sep-19 @ 11:29 PM
Just eaten a piece of delicious Winberry tart lovenly made by my sister Kay from Maesteg. I haven't tasted Winberries in over 50 years and my childhood has just flashed before me. Thanks Sis
Dawni - 15-Aug-19 @ 8:23 PM
Just had a piece of delicious winberry tart lovingly made by my sister Kay from Maesteg.Itsthe fMAirst time I've had winberries in 50 years. My childhood flashed before me. Thanks sis
Dawni - 15-Aug-19 @ 8:11 PM
Still surprises me how many people haven’t heard of the winberry it seems to be a valley thing I think, I’m lucky enough too have them few miles drive in what ever direction I drive, I pick them every year have done since I was a child back breaking but worth the effort they make a delicious tart if you haven’t tried a valleys winberry tart you haven’t lived
Diane - 13-Aug-19 @ 1:00 AM
I live in Blaengarw, in the Garw Valley. They are everywhere here.
Jackie - 10-Aug-19 @ 12:03 PM
Bought some pies at Bury Mkt today Also saw fresh berries to buy too What a treat????
Yum - 26-Jul-19 @ 5:21 PM
Hello, I'm originally from Rhymney and as a child I would be up the mountains picking Winberries. I want to take my son picking but we now live in Cardiff, I travel up the valleys every week and I went to the place I used to pick them as a child but they don't seem to grow there anymore, so not sure of the best place to take him, any advice would be much appreciated. Diolch!
Mammagino - 22-Jul-19 @ 10:03 PM
I'm lucky to have them growing just across the road from my home in South Wales we call them winberries...I picked some today and shall be making a lovely tart tomorrow ??
Sal - 15-Jul-19 @ 6:13 PM
When's the best time to go whimberry picking up rivvy pls
Vi - 19-May-19 @ 12:43 PM
My post should have said Rivington Pike nearthe terraced gardens and the Rivington tower
SassyR - 26-Aug-18 @ 8:25 AM
Yes up Rivington park on the middle car park and walk towards the tower on the left hand side of the road there’s hundreds of bushes and paths through pick away we spend around 3 hours to pick enough for 2 pies but loads of livel bushes all together
SassyR - 26-Aug-18 @ 8:21 AM
Hi, I used to go wimberry picking with my grandparents as a child near Uppermill and on Saddleworth moor but now live near Bolton.Can anyone point me to somewhere I can forage for them?Thanks
swolst - 25-Aug-18 @ 2:01 PM
we sell them at our greengrocer shop in Ludlow Shropshire SY8 1AP
Ross - 2-Aug-18 @ 4:00 PM
Winberries so called as they used to be called WINDberries as the flowers on the bushes need wind to properly pollinate - so I was told years ago.....
Jujieb - 29-Dec-17 @ 8:24 PM
@cantona - thanks for this info. I'll look out for them. Bury is not too far away.
UI - 18-Dec-17 @ 3:38 PM
Wimberry Pies are always for sale at Bury market on one or two cake stalls. They are a local favourite, so go early to ensure to get yours.
cantona - 18-Dec-17 @ 10:33 AM
Where exactly in Chorley can I find them please?
Lola - 9-Aug-17 @ 12:25 PM
Just had wimberry pie with cream after tea. We can get them on holcombe hill in Bury. Been having them since childhood and love them even though the season is short.
Kmm - 26-Jul-17 @ 7:05 PM
Wimberries are really common around bolton and chorley and many people collect them for pies in summer. And in lancashire its most definitely wimberry
Gav - 22-May-17 @ 9:42 PM
We call them wimberries in Lancashire.Wimberry pies were very common in cake shops when I was young and you could also buy them in punnets at the greengrocers.They seem to have disappeared now. What a shame as they have a far superior taste to say, blackcurrants. Wonder if anyone sells them as I would love to make a wimberry pie. Would even plant a bush if I could find one at the garden centre but that's doesn't seem likely.
Daisy - 12-Sep-16 @ 3:47 PM
Country Pumpkin - Your Question:
We live in the trough of Bowland, Lancashire and are very lucky to know of a few places to pick winberries. We find that they like to grow on hills across the moors but are only ever on one side of the hill. They seem to grow near Heather too and haven't really seen them growing anywhere near brambles. The midges love to hide under them though and the winberries like to hide under their plants leaves which can make them quite difficult to pick. Very much worth it though, they are a very tasty fruit. Also expensive so if you get a good crop sometime, you may be able to sell some to your local bakery or deli :-) Happy picking (if you still have time left this year)!

Our Response:
Many thanks for sharing your information with us. We hope you manage to find some this year.
FruitExpert - 30-Aug-16 @ 12:39 PM
We live in the trough of Bowland, Lancashire and are very lucky to know of a few places to pick winberries... We find that they like to grow on hills across the moors but are only ever on one side of the hill. They seem to grow near Heather too and haven't really seen them growing anywhere near brambles. The midges love to hide under them though and the winberries like to hide under their plants leaves which can make them quite difficult to pick. Very much worth it though, they are a very tasty fruit. Also expensive so if you get a good crop sometime, you may be able to sell some to your local bakery or deli :-) Happy picking (if you still have time left this year)!
Country Pumpkin - 29-Aug-16 @ 8:09 PM
amjohnno - Your Question:
We have recently moved to north Derbyshire where these fruit are referred to as "wimberries", with an "m". So popular are they that a local hill is known as Wimberry Hill, though I've never seen a wimberry on it! The local butcher (of all people) makes a delicious wimberry fruit pie and has recently started adding them to lamb burgers, which are stunning.

Our Response:
Many thanks for your comments - at least our readers know where they may be able to find and taste them in pies!
FruitExpert - 1-Aug-16 @ 1:39 PM
We have recently moved to north Derbyshire where these fruit are referred to as "wimberries", with an "m". So popular are they that a local hill is known as Wimberry Hill, though I've never seen a wimberry on it! The local butcher (of all people) makes a delicious wimberry fruit pie and has recently started adding them to lamb burgers, which are stunning.
amjohnno - 31-Jul-16 @ 9:07 PM
My partner have picked winberries today in Aberdare South Wales we get them almost every year from the near by mountains, we always keep some for a crumble for Christmas Day :)
Shell - 17-Jul-16 @ 4:59 PM
Having lived in Lancashire for 47 years, being taught about these delicious berries by my wonderful Grandma and enjoying them almost every year, I now live on the Isle of Man; whilst a passenger in the car I thought I recognised the familiar, low lying bushes on the moorland and asked my partner to stop the car. I squealed with delight when I could see they were indeed whinberry bushes, keeping a close eye on them as they should ripen pretty soon; Whinberry Ripple Ice Cream as well as the usual recipes if it is a good harvest. Keep on foraging!
Michelle - 2-Jul-16 @ 6:54 AM
We saw them for sale in Abergavenny street market yesterday. That's why I am on this site to find out what they are.
George - 9-Sep-15 @ 3:06 PM
Can aney one tell me where i can find winberrys nar tto Swansea?i use to pick them as a child , and again in therepublic of Ireland where they are called frockens, wat is the best time to pick them i thought it ws at the begining of Sep ,but i am told that is to late
FRANCES Davies - 6-Sep-15 @ 10:11 PM
I have literally read all responses to the winberry question rather a long delay sadly. where would be the nearest market to Cardiff area where I could purchase these purple balls of deliciousnessperhaps it is too late?.
babs - 29-Aug-15 @ 5:00 PM
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