BILBERRIES can be found amongst the heather of the Yorkshire moorlands and the surrounding heartland areas of Keighley throughout the late summertime.

Bilberries grow on small bushes close to the ground and are hard to pick, but the back-breaking labour is well worth the effort.

When we were kids we would set off on our bikes with the dogs to fill ice-cream tubs full of bilberries up on the moors near the Guide public house.

Sometimes we would venture out further to the Salt and Pepper Pots (Lund’s Tower and Wainman’s Pinnacle) over in Sutton spending hours foraging a harvest with purple-black stained fingers and bramble-scratch knee caps, looking forward to our ‘’mucky-mouth-pie’’ for tea with Carnation milk.

The return home was always tricky, trying not to anything on the bumpy roads while balancing the dancing bilberries on the handlebars of our bikes.

Bilberries are unlike blueberries: they have a very deep blue colour with a grey bloom to them.

The taste is completely different to the blueberry: a bilberry is very acidic in taste and can be eaten raw ‘’true Northern grit’’, but always shines when a little sugar is added for use in jams and pies.

Bilberries do contain a lot of juice which is released when cooked, so watch out for a soggy bottom crust.

I’m fascinated by all things ‘’lughnasadh’’, the beginning of harvest time when food was plentiful and needed to be preserved for more lean days later in the year.

People would look forward and get excited for the first berries of the season. I do think we have lost our connections with the seasons today.

I was intrigued to read when researching this column that bilberries are rumoured to be good for night vision and the bilberry pie was traditionally served at a Yorkshire funeral tea.

So you see, the humble but beautiful bilberry represents so much: intimate childhood memories; the regional delights of our beloved Yorkshire; the beauty of free food found on the Wuthering moors; the pleasure of searching out, preparing and enjoying a seasonal treat; creating fragrant, colourful memories favoured with a good send-off.

Long live the mucky-mouth-pie, and long live the tradition of picking bilberries in Yorkshire. Get up on t’ moors and pick them little gems, assuming the cows haven’t got them first!