Vaccinium is a genus of shrubs in the family Ericaceae. The fruit of many species are eaten by humans, including cranberry, blueberry, bilberry, lingonberry or cowberry… Generally speaking, they all are a good source of antioxidants and vitamins.
Many people refer to “blueberries” both if they mean the bilberry (European blueberry) or the American blueberry, so there is a lot of confusion about these two closely similar fruits.
Bilberries (or European blueberry), vaccinium myrtillus, appear near black with a slight purple shade. The pulp red or purple. Here in Italy, we just have them in the northern regions.
Blueberries, of Cyanococcus section of Vaccinium genus, also appear near black with a slight purple shade, but have white or translucent, mildly fragrant flesh.
Cowberries (or lingonberries), Vaccinium vitis-idaea, are red and have an acidic taste. They are a staple in Northern Scandinavia.
In cooking, fruit of the genus Vaccinium can be used to garnish cakes and desserts. Or to make pies, jam and jelly, muffins, fruit salads. Or you can eat them simple, maybe with lemon juice and sugar.
Fun fact: bilberries are often associated with improvement of night vision: they say that during World War II pilots used to eat plenty of bilberry jam to sharpen vision for night missions.