When to Harvest Cascade Bilberry

A ripe bilberry ready to be harvested. image by Yirsh/sxc.hu

Overview

The cascade bilberry, also called the Cascades blueberry, is found in Idaho, California, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. These small berries are a relative of huckleberries and blueberries. If you know where bilberry bushes are growing in your area, keep a close eye on the calendar and the berries, so you and your family can enjoy delicious, fresh-picked cascade bilberries. Great for pancakes, cobbler, jams and jellies, your hand-picked bilberries can be used for nearly any recipe that would normally call for blueberries.

Step 1

Check regularly in spring for pink blooms on the bilberry bushes. Make a note on your calendar of when you saw flowers and approximately how many. Often, this can give you an advance estimate of the size of your harvest to come to help you prepare the amount of supplies you'll need later in the year.

Step 2

Continue weekly or every other week throughout the summer to check the bushes. Keep making notes in your journal as you see the flowers transform into small, green berries. Not all bushes will produce fruit, even if they flower. By taking notes, you'll begin to know which areas are berry "hot spots" and which ones were unproductive.

Step 3

Take a bucket with you for picking any ripe bilberries in your hot spots, starting in late July. As summer sets in, the green berries will change into a hazy blue.

Step 4

Harvest bilberries through August and September by pulling ripe berries from the branch. A firm berry, not hard or soft, should release from the bush easily without forceful pulling.

Step 5

Review your journal for next year's harvest. Notice any patterns of blooming and ripening of berries to give you a good idea of the peak times for your region.

Tips and Warnings

  • If you are picking berries in the wild, learn what kind of wildlife you may run into. Birds, deer and other wildlife enjoy berries, so be sure to make a fair amount of noise to let the animals know you are there too. A foraging bear shouldn't be startled or surprised by quiet harvesters who suddenly appear too close for comfort since the situation could become dangerous.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening calendar or journal
  • Pencil
  • Bucket or basket

References

  • Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes; Kathleen Robson, Alice Richter, and Marianne Filbert; 2008
Keywords: bilberry, cascade bilberries, harvesting bilberries

About this Author

Writing from Virginia, Margaret Telsch-Williams specializes in personal finance, money management, gardening, crafts and sewing, cooking, DIY projects and travel. When not writing instructional articles online, she works for the website Widescreen Warrior as a contributor and podcast co-host discussing all things film and entertainment. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a master's degree in writing.

Photo by: Yirsh/sxc.hu