Bilberries still exist in their wild form, but are also grown on a commercial scale as well as in private household gardens.
In their natural state, bilberry bushes develop in sandy and acidic soil, in semi-shady conditions, hence they are often found in forests or on the edge of fields. In order to reproduce these particular conditions, bilberries are grown in shaded fields or in pots, with regular watering to keep the soil moist.
The seeds are sown in nurseries, where the seedlings can develop in optimal conditions. The use of seedlings also simplifies cultivation in pots, and repotting thereby becomes the first stage of bilberry cultivation.
The growth cycle is similar to that of fruit and citrus trees: planting, growth, maturing of the tree, pruning, fructification, renewal of the growth cycle. Pruning is essential, as it helps control the growth of the bush. Without this pruning, the production of berries would diminish over the years.
The ripeness of the berries can be determined by their colour. Bilberries are ripe and ready to be picked when they become a bluish-black colour. They are harvested either mechanically or by hand, with the aid of secateurs and gloves. The berries are then washed and chilled in refrigerated storage. Before being sold, they may be thawed in stages, for transportation or direct sale.