Why Do We Not Hear About Winberries or Wimberries?

Our resident fruit expert answers a reader’s question on the apparent disappearance of a heritage berry variety which goes by many names.

bowl of winberries nestling amongst foliage
Winberries or wimberries were once a well known and popuar fruit variety. Where have they gone?

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

(Mrs Carolyn Briggs-Conway, 6 October 2020)

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 or wimberries as they are also known, then I’m afraid you’ve almost certainly missed your chance. In most years, they can be collected from July to September. Depending on the weather and whereabouts you are in the country that can stretch a bit in either direction.

Local Names and Variations of Winberry / Wimberry

As to why we don’t hear much about winberries anymore – the answer is probably because they also have a number of other names, which seem to have become more commonly used.

Winberries / Wimberries – sometimes also written as whinberries, whimberries or whynberries are also known as:-

  • Blaeberries.
  • Bilberries.
  • Whortleberries.
  • 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. There is now considerable confusion as a result. 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. For example, the likes of ‘blåbær’ being normally translated as ‘blueberry’.

Winberry Facts

In the UK, Winberries are now largely only available through wild foraging. If you want to try out these traditional berries and see how the differ from modern favourites such as blueberries, here’s a few facts to help!

When is Winberry Season?

You can collect the berries from July to September.

Where Can I Find Winberries Now?

Winberries are usually found growing on low bushes on scrubby moorland. They can be difficult to find, but once you find a patch to forage you can return year after year.

Do Winberries Taste The Same as Blueberries?

Winberries are much more acidic than Blueberries. They can be eaten without cooking, but are far more palatable when used to bake tarts or as an accompanyment to meat dishes.

A Little Bit of Winberry Botany

Along with the likes of cranberries, blueberries and lingonberries, winberries / wimberries belong to the botanical genus Vaccinium. This 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. However, 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 Demand in Berry Consumption

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.

Society has become more concerned about organic and environmental issues. Therefore things like food miles and how our food is produced has started to bring many of the old favourites back in fashion. So we may not have heard the last of this hedgerow favourite.

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

49 thoughts on “Why Do We Not Hear About Winberries or Wimberries?

  1. Clive says:

    We used to pick whimberries every year in the 50’s and 60’s on Resolven mountain with my cousins. All long summer days on the mountain and not a mobile phone anywhere!!!! Heaven!!!

  2. Mary Wildin says:

    Can you still pick Whimberrys I live in Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and l wondered if they are still around and where to pick them

  3. PieHighDreams says:

    It’s funny how many Northern folk still know and love the wimberry. Bolton, Bury and nearby areas all seem particularly fond. I used spend hours picking them as a kid but sadly haven’t done for years. Recently I started picking wild garlic and it’s reminded me how great wild foods are. Today I found a vast patch of what I think are wimberries but there’s no signs of fruit yet. I’m going to go back in August and check again. I hope they are because I’m going to make a pie!

  4. Howard says:

    I’m now 67 and vividly remember when on holiday with my Grandparents in Radcliffe, Lancs, nan would bake winberry pie…..delicious and with very purple juice running down my chin.

    • Haydn Abraham says:

      I’m now 81 years old and as a boy we used to collect wimberries on the mountainside above Cwmaman Aberdare south wales every year, and would sell for pocket money.

  5. Ms. E. Mason says:

    As a child, I’m 71 now, the local bakery sold Winberry tarts. Packed with fruit and the juice would dribble down my face. Absolutely beautiful taste that cannot be compared! What I’d give for one now!! We lived in Reddish, Manchester.

  6. Margaret says:

    Whinnberries can still be found on side of the Belmont Rd leading to Abbey Village ,too late now .Go in July to September. Great to hear that people are still interested .This side of Bolton still has a lot to offer . Good luck for next year

  7. Fiona says:

    I’ve just looked up winberries here as Anna Pavord describes picking them on Sugar Loaf as a child, in the beginning of her book “Landskipping”. Maybe that’s their Welsh name, now I know they’re the same as the blaeberries that I look for up here in Scotland.
    Thank you.

    • Fruit Expert says:

      Hi Fiona, it’s good to know they can also be found in Scotland. What sort of areas do you forage for them? I’m in Scotland now, so would like to try going out and looking for them locally!

      • Debbie says:

        If you find heather, you will likely find winberries (or bilberries as I call them in The Peak District). Bracken can overtake them in places but try looking on the margins between woodland and moorland. Always look underneath the leaves to find more fruit. It is my yearly ritual to go picking ( and then baking pies). The tradition was handed down from my grandparents.

  8. skip says:

    another old guy who remembers this delicious fruit, and would love to have another taste of it ? live in salford ,not a chance ? or do you know better ??

  9. Windsor says:

    During World War 2 in Nantyffyllon South Wales as a young lad I used to pick wimberries on Pwll yr Wlch mountain and sell them for a shilling a pint. It so long to pick that amount that my father used say they were worth a pound a pint!!

  10. Lovescats333 says:

    Wimberry pie is unbelievable. I’ve just (by accident) found some frozen in lidls! They are called blueberries but aren’t! They are wimberry! Making a pie tomorrow! Good luck. Hope you read this!

  11. Eddyj says:

    Winberry and apple, or winberry and mint tart. Yum!! Sadly our local patch has been cleared to make way for cycle paths, but I still know of one local patch in mid Wales . .

  12. Net says:

    My gran from Clun in Shropshire used to make lovely whimberry pies. They tasted and looked so exotic. We picked them and a man wearing a black beret and driving a little black ford pop I think used to sell them around Clun. He picked them in the Long Mynd. I used to be terrified when picking them because my gran would say. Watch out for adders. The cafe at Clun bridge is selling whimberry flavoured ice cream and I tried one today as I was visiting. Sadly saw no pies to buy. Someone told me a lot of the whimberry bushes have been cleared on the Long Mynd in the name of conservation.

  13. Uzi says:

    I live in the USA but am a Welsh boy. I was looking for a way to send some whimberries to my Dad who still lives in Merthyr for a tart. It’s great to see comments from folks in Aberdare Rhondda, Ebbw Vale area, Deri ( I grew up in Bargoed). I wanted to get over there this year, and I would have gone and picked some for my Dad,.but the bloody virus saw that off. He is 84 so can’t get out anymore. If anyone knows where I can get some, sent by post, let me know.

    • John says:

      Picked wimberries yesterday on the Rhigos mountain alongside the reservoir there. Waiting patiently for the wife to make a tart now. Too precious to have a stab at baking myself.

  14. Mrs cls says:

    I would love to taste wimberry tart/pie again – we used to get them when we lived near Manchester. My mum made lovely pies – such a unique taste

  15. Zedela Montanya says:

    All those question marks in my previous message are meant to be emoticons of face licking lips. Don’t think your website recognised the emoticon!

  16. Zedela Montanya says:

    My aunt used to go collecting whinberries high up on the Long Mynd in Shropshire. My RAsister and I sometimes went along and helped. The views were amazing and I’ll never forget the pies we would eat for the next few weeks. ??????????????

  17. Azz says:

    Left the house half 4 this morning with the pooch and picked hundreds of windberies. 1 hour walk from my door to the nipple on top of the mountain.Twmbarlwm mountain over looking some beautiful scenery .they are thriving up their!!!!

    • Derek says:

      Hi Margaret, I’m pleased to say I took a bike ride from Westhoughton today and found the whinnberry bushes, picking about a pound in half an hour (it’s not the easiest of tasks). The bushes are tricky to spot, especially as the berries are so small, but once you know what you’re looking for, much easier. Looking forward to a pie tomorrow. Thanks for the tip off.

  18. Ceri2 says:

    Oh I’d love to taste whimberry tart again… how can I pick or buy some? My mum who is 88 would be over the moon to taste a whimberry tart once more. Having grown up in Deri, it was the highlight of the summer.

  19. Vanburger says:

    We used to collect wimberrys on the Moors around the area where I grew up Glossop in the peak District Derbyshire. What I miss most is the smell of wimberry pies with soda pastry baking on a Sunday morning. They were so fragrant.

  20. Mosy says:

    Walked the mountain between Aberdare and Rhondda yesterday. Found a tonne of wimberries which will be ready for picking end of July-early August… Roll on!! ????????????????

  21. Cookie says:

    I remember my mam making the winberry tarts when i was a child living in the Merthyr Tydfil area then, but i never see them now ,I loved the taste.

  22. Shroppy says:

    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.

  23. Dawni says:

    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

  24. Dawni says:

    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

  25. Diane says:

    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

  26. Mammagino says:

    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!

  27. Sal says:

    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 ??

  28. SassyR says:

    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

  29. swolst says:

    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

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