Monday, 6 August 2012

Bilberry vs. Blueberry - learning on Facebook..

I've always thought that I love blueberries, but it turns out that I've always found them tasteless.

Back to yesterday, when I was browsing Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland page on Facebook.. (Yes, slightly different topic..) I saw this photo, and thought to myself, wow, that looks like Finnish blueberries.. (Them being different from, for example, Irish blueberries, which grow in low bushes, are rather tasteless, and don't dye everything dark purple..) Then, I noticed "Billberry Sunday", in the caption.


I googled, guessing correctly that it's actually spelled bilberry..

So, yes, I discovered that what I have always thought of as (Finnish) blueberries, are not actually blueberries at all! They are bilberries! =D

I love bilberries!

The reason for this confusion is that it's a common translation mistake. We were taught at school, that the Finnish word mustikka, is blueberry in English. Well, it isn't. It's bilberry in English.

All my life, I've heard those particular berries referred to as blueberries, which is wrong. There was even a recent travel article in The New York Times blog, about picking blueberries in Finland. Well, they were not picking blueberries - they were picking bilberries. (Not saying it was sloppy journalism as the translation mistake is totally mainstream..)

I tried a Finnish online dictionary, and got three translations for the Finnish word, mustikka;

1. blueberry
2. bilberry
3. huckleberry

After #2 (bilberry), they'd added: "bushy / bushlike" (in Finnish, though). Actually, that is wrong as well. It's blueberry that grows in bushes - at least if you compare it to bilberry, which grows so low that only a Barbie doll would think of it as a bush.. Also, bilberry should have been #1, then blueberry. I've never heard the word huckleberry used anywhere in Europe, unless it was referring to something American, so I've just always ignored it, thinking it might refer to a berry that only grows in America - I had no idea that it was also referring to bilberries or blueberries.. (IF it is..)

Some of my Finnish friends (and their friends) have been discussing this on Facebook, today, and have found even more interesting bilberry vs. blueberry related articles, etc. I will list some here;

Bilberry vs. Blueberry
This one's very interesting, has photos of the plants and berries (incl. flesh/pulp), and even a HPLC fingerprint for both berries;
Finally bilberries and blueberries have a different phytochemical profile and anthocyanins content of bilberry fresh fruits is almost 4 times higher in bilberries  than in blueberries.

Wikipedia: Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry)
..mentions that it's called bilberry, whortleberry or European blueberry, or "more precisely called Common Bilberry or Blue Whortleberry, to distinguish it from other Vaccinium relatives", not forgetting regional names such as blaeberry, hurtleberry, huckleberry, winberry and fraughan...

I rather like "winberry" - it's very Charlie Sheen..

On that same Wikipedia page, see also;
Confusion between bilberries and American blueberries

Vaccinium uliginosum (Bog Bilberry or Northern Bilberry)
Finnish: juolukka

Empetrum nigrum is a species of crowberry known as black crowberry
Finnish: variksenmarja

I might add more links to this, if I see any interesting ones..

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