Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Blaeberry: in pies, jams, desserts and Byron's Gin

Blaeberry: the fruit
Image courtesy of John Crellin/ Floral Images
www.floralimages.co.uk/page.php?
taxon=vaccinium_myrtillus,1

Blaeberries - also known as blueberries - are one of the botanicals used in the Bird Cherry expression of Byron's Gin. This may be less surprising to you than some of the other botanicals used in Byron's Gin, such as aspen, lady's-bedstraw and Scots' pine. Blaeberries are, after all, well known as an edible berry and can even be found for sale in supermarkets. In recent years they have become known as a "superfood" as they have a high level of anti-oxidants. 

They are certainly delicious - anyone who grew up in a part of Britain or Ireland with access to moorland is likely to have memories of childhood collecting trips, when for every berry that went into the collecting basket, another one was eaten, resulting in blue-purple lips and tongue - impossible to hide the evidence of greedy guzzling from Mummy! 

Blaeberry: the flowers
Image courtesy of John Crellin/ Floral Images
www.floralimages.co.uk/page.php?
taxon=vaccinium_myrtillus,1
Blaeberries have also been used as a dye plant and as a traditional herbal remedy. Flora Celtica tells us that they were "taken to treat diarrhoea and dysentery on Arran and in the Western Isles" - hmmm, anyone who has over-indulged in guzzling blaeberries, and suffered the consequences, might raise an eyebrow at that suggestion! They also have a reputation for "improving eyesight and treating ophthalmological problems... during the Second World War. According to popular belief, [they] became the secret weapon of the RAF, sharpening night vision and helping to secure victory". 

Others might think that was a cunning plan devised by airmen to make sure that, despite rationing, they managed to get some blaeberry jam on their toast! Fortunately you won't need to resort to any such subterfuge if you want to try a drop of gin containing blaeberries - just buy a bottle of Byron's Gin 'Bird Cherry' expression - and don't forget to let us know if it makes your eyesight sharper next time you go out botanising! 

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