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Why do we not hear about Winberries?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 9 Aug 2017 | 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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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
I am 83 and live in the Rhymney valley .my daughter and granddaughter recently picked winberrys and made the yearly batch of pies .I must say i love the taste and haven't missed a year since i can remember. My granddaughter took her children picking this wonderful fruit so the tradition can be passed on. Its a pity its not more available so everyone can taste it.
May - 28-Aug-15 @ 3:51 PM
Can you transplant winberry bushes or take cuttings? I adore this fruit and it reminds me of my childhood, learning to cook from my Grandma and Great Aunt ??
Mimi - 11-Aug-15 @ 8:27 PM
Sher - Your Question:
Does anyone know of anywhere in Somerset where we could pick some winberries as my husband originated from Wales and loves them. He had a friend who brought him some from Wales years ago and like someone else commented I also made a pie and put it in the freezer for Christmas day Yum

Our Response:
Winberries, are quite difficult to grow and generally found in acidic, nutrient-poor soils and can be found across moorland. If you don't live in an area with acidic soil, bilberry bushes can be grown in containers. However, you will need a few in order to get a decent crop and for cross-pollination.
FruitExpert - 10-Aug-15 @ 10:21 AM
Does anyone know of anywhere in Somerset where we could pick some winberries as my husband originated from Wales and loves them. He had a friend who brought him some from Wales years ago and like someone else commented i also made a pie and put it in the freezer for Christmas day Yum
Sher - 9-Aug-15 @ 6:29 PM
We found them today up Denbigh moors.. ;))
Jen - 2-Aug-15 @ 10:00 PM
been looking for a good recipefor whimberry jam ? cant find one anwhere hoping someone can help got about 30lb in the freezed and still plenty about down here in the forest glostershire
willy - 28-Jul-15 @ 6:58 AM
My husband picked 7lb of Winberries today..and we spent the last 4 hours cleaning them....but boy are they worth it!! I would rather have Winberries than Gold! My husband picks them up Craig-y-Llyn mountain overlooking Glynneath/Cwmgwrach South Wales in a secret place....everyone has a secret place lol....and no one will say where it is! ...top secret.... They can be bought in the local markets..Aberdare and Neath and sell for £4.50 a pound. Winberry Tart on Christmas Day is a must in my house...if ever you are in Wales I will make you a Winberry Tart...beautiful :D
ApHerbert - 29-Jul-14 @ 9:29 PM
I was born some years ago in the Rhymney valley south wales it was as a child I would pick winberries with my mother on a very steep mountain side near our home .I will never forget the joy of the smell of my Mums winberry tart then the silence whilst we ate it BLISS!! I have not lived at home since I was 18 but still dream of finding a retailer of this wonderful fruit and relive and share with my grandchildrenthe sublime winberrytart can anyone help?
babs - 28-Jul-14 @ 8:39 PM
This superb article answered all our questions and many more we had not thought of. And the comments afterwards almost brought tears to our eyes. Thanks everyone. Keep on wyning!
Thebrookes - 26-Jul-14 @ 11:58 AM
Where I live (Mossley/greenfield/saddleworth), they're all over the place. They like to be on steep north facing slopes at around 250 to 300 meters. Local shops sell amazing winberry pies (best is small shop in Heyrod). Makes good jam, pies, crumbles. Good with chicken, turkey, venison. Nice mixed with local blackberries or redcurrants. Best place I know is the road between Mossley and Groton.
Chazza - 20-May-14 @ 10:22 PM
When not in Spain I live in Derbyshire near Buxton. Out on the moors of the High Peak, Goyt Valley and other local areas there are 1000s and 1000s of winberries. Great in a pie or crumble. Usually ready late August early September, depending on the High Peak weather. It is like a moor filled with bluebells...
RusskiMac - 17-Oct-11 @ 9:54 PM
Just returned to South Africa from a short stay in South Wales. Went walking on Pen Pych mountain and others and along the river in Blaen Cwm. The hills are covered in these berries and many are ripe sweet and delicicious! I thought they belonged to the blueberry family but were not quite the same. Blueberries are commercially grown here and are bigger but the winberries look and taste just as good!
bushpaddy - 8-Jul-11 @ 1:47 PM
I live in the Ribble Valley Lancashire, I always thought that winberries were unique to the north west, obviously not. Any way we have a lot in my area you find them on the moors picking time is down to the weather usually starting late July but this year they are 4/5 weeks early, I believe this is down to the hot spring.
fab - 29-Jun-11 @ 1:42 PM
When I was evacuated to South Wales during the war my brother and I use to love picking Win Berries off the mountains and we always ended up having more stains on our clothes and fingers and never had enough left to take back for tea. (Which was why we were sent out to pick them). That was the best time of our lives!!
Titch - 4-Jun-11 @ 5:02 PM
When I visited my brother in mid wales we used to pick win berries and they taste nothing like the blue berries you buy from shops and supermarkets. Blue berries taste like black currents and win berries mixed. Win berries are delicious, specially those growing wild. I miss them and would love to know where I could buy them. I live in North Wales and my win berry picking days are long passed.
Trish - 27-Apr-11 @ 7:00 PM
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