The bilberry is a shrub native of Europe, which requires very acidic and low nutrient soil to grow. Thus, it is extremely difficult to cultivate, and some European countries began farming the American blueberry, easier to obtain, for commercial purposes. But do not confuse the two! Bilberries are naturally more succulent than cultivated blueberries, with fuller flavor and better nutritional contents.
Our bilberries grow wild in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, the mountains separating Modena and Bologna from Florence. Every morning in August and September, harvesters from Fellicarolo hike up Monte Cimone to hand-pick bilberries at a height of 1700 meters. The “mostarda” is a preserve of bilberries and balsamic vinegar of modena IGP. It is an excellent accompaniment to flavorful cheeses of any kind, such as aged Parmigiano and Pecorino, or blue cheeses like Gorgonzola. Besides, it is delicious over meat, in particular Bolliti and Arrosti (boiled and roasted) as well as grilled.