Bilberry (whortleberry Or Whinberry)

This fruit, which belongs to the Cranberry order of plants, grows

abundantly throughout England in heathy [52] and mountainous

districts. The small-branched shrub bears globular, wax-like

flowers, and black berries, which are covered, when quite fresh,

with a grey bloom. In the West of England they are popularly

called whorts, and they ripen about the time of St. James' Feast,

July 25th. Other names for the fruit are B
ueberry, Bulberry,

Hurtleberry, and Huckleberry. The title Whinberry has been

acquired from its growing on Whins, or Heaths; and Bilberry

signifies dark coloured; whence likewise comes Blackwort as

distinguished in its aspect from the Cowberry and the Cranberry.

By a corruption the original word Myrtleberry has suffered change

of its initial M into W. (Whortlebery.) In the middle ages the

Myrtleberry was used in medicine and cookery, to which berry the

Whortleberry bears a strong resemblance. It is agreeable to the

taste, and may be made into tarts, but proves mawkish unless

mixed with some more acid fruit.

The Bilberry (Vaccinium Myrtillus) is an admirable astringent,

and should be included as such among the domestic medicines of

the housewife. If some good brandy be poured over two handfuls

of the fruit in a bottle, this will make an extract which continually

improves by being kept. Obstinate diarrhoea may be cured by

giving doses of a tablespoonful of this extract taken with a

wineglassful of warm water, and repeated at intervals of two hours

whilst needed, even for the more severe cases of dysenteric

diarrhoea. The berries contain chemically much tannin. Their stain

on the lips may be quickly effaced by sucking at a lemon. In

Devonshire they are eaten at table with cream. The Irish call them

frawns. If the first tender leaves are properly gathered and dried,

they can scarcely be [53] distinguished from good tea. Moor game

live on these berries in the autumn. Their juice will stain paper or

linen purple:--

Sanguineo splendore rosas vaccinia nigro,

Induit, et dulci violas ferrugine pingit.


They are also called in some counties, Blaeberries, Truckleberries,

and Blackhearts.

The extract of Bilberry is found to be a very useful application for

curing such skin diseases as scaly eczema, and other eczema

which is not moist or pustulous; also for burns and scalds. Some of

the extract is to be laid thickly on the cleansed skin with a camel

hairbrush, and a thin layer of cotton wool to be spread over it, the

whole being fastened with a calico or gauze bandage. This should

be changed gently once a day.

Another Vaccinium (oxycoccos), the Marsh Whortleberry, or

Cranberry, or Fenberry--from growing in fens--is found in peat

bogs, chiefly in the North. This is a low plant with straggling wiry

stems, and solitary terminal bright red flowers, of which the

segments are bent back in a singular manner. Its fruit likewise

makes excellent tarts, and forms a considerable article of

commerce at Langtown, on the borders of Cumberland. The fruit

stalks are crooked at the top, and before the blossom expands they

resemble the head and neck of a crane.