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A Feast On Wild Pickings

Bulgaria's countryside is brimming with edible wild berries. They grow between spring and autumn by the roadsides, in the forests and on the meadows.

Local people collect them and use them for either cooking or medicinal purposes; when eaten on their own they taste delicious. Quest Bulgaria takes you across the picturesque Bulgarian countryside to feast on some of its wild pickings...

Raspberry (Rubus Idaeus)

Most Bulgarians grow raspberries in their gardens although you can still find them growing wild. Bulgarians use them both for food and medicine. As a medicine its leaves are used as a tea to relieve sore throats, fevers, diarrhoea and as an aid to toning the body for childbirth. The berries are used to make jam or to preserve for winter, but most often raspberries are served straight from the plant as a dessert in summer.

Rose Hips (Rosa sp. Diversa)

Rose hips grow wild all over Bulgaria and they are used primarily for medicine to boost the immune system and combat colds, as well as for kidney and bladder problems. Rose hips contain a naturally high volume of vitamin C. Bulgarians tend to make tea from the berries or just eat them raw as one would a strawberry.

Wild Strawberry (Frageria Vesca)

Bulgarians have cultivated 43 different strains of strawberries since the late 1940's because of their high export value. Wild strawberries grow in forested areas in the spring. They are much smaller than the shop varieties and tarter in taste. They are most often used to make jam and in the mountain areas where they are most abundant local jam makers sell them at the roadside.

Dewberry (Rubus sp.Ddiversa)

Dewberries are very similar to blackberries in terms of the brambles they grow on; however they look more like a dark purple raspberry. The leaves are dried to make tea and the berries, which are sweet, are eaten or made into jam. The berries are very tender and difficult to pick without squashing them.

Bilberry (Vaccinium Myrtillus)

Bilberries are also called blueberries and they are believed to preserve eyesight and help people with poor night vision and short-sightedness. It also acts as a sedative as well as a cure for coughs and colds. In the kitchen they can be eaten raw or as jam or juice. Bilberry leaves are sometimes dried and used in teas to treat gastrointestinal problems. Bilberries are usually picked using a berry-picking rake, which plucks the berries from the plant with metal prongs and catches them in a wooden basket.

Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra)

Elder grows everywhere in Bulgaria; its fruit is purplish black berry, which is at its best during the autumn. Not only do elder berries provide an important food source for birds in particular blackcaps, they also have a multitude of medicinal and culinary uses. One thing to note about this plant is that all of its parts except for the flowers and ripe berries are poisonous because these parts contain cyanogenic glycoside sambunigrin. The strong smelling foliage used to e tied into horses manes to ward off flies. In cooking, elder flower heads can be used to make teas. The berries are not edible unless they are cooked and then they can be used to make jam, chutney and juice and even wine. They are a god combination when mixed with apples or blackberries. As a medicinal herb plant, the flower heads are brewed as a tea and used to treat bronchitis, coughs, colds, fever and other respiratory infections. One point worth noting is that some individuals may experience allergic reactions to this plant.

Blackcurrant (Ribes Nigrum)

Blackcurrant berries have a unique sweet and sharp taste. They are popular in the kitchen for jam, jelly and juice and their astringent flavour makes them a good ingredient in sauces. The leaves can be dried and used as a tea.