Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn, a plant that is commonly seen in hedgerows all over the UK and Northern Europe. They do grow in Northern USA, but are rarer.
The branches are thorny, and in spring the blackthorn bush has white flowers. The flowers of the blackthorn bush are also edible, and can be used to make health tonics. The leaves are small and oval in shape.
Sloe berries are ready to be picked during the autumn.
The sloe berries shine bright blue among the green leaves of the hedgerow. They have a bloom on them that reveals a shiny berry when rubbed off.
Tasted fresh, they have a sour flavour that dries the mouth. Sloes are best picked after the first frost, as this tends to make them sweeter.
Sloes are traditionally used to flavour beverages, and it compliments gin very well. After you’ve made your sloe gin, the boozy fruits can be used in all sorts of desserts. The sloe berries can also be used with other fruits to make a jelly to go with rich meats. Sloes are full of natural pectin, so adding a few sloes to any preserve will help it to set.
Health Benefits of Sloes
There are some good health benefits to be had from eating sloes. They have lots of Vitamin C and tanins.
They are said to improve digestive problems and reduce inflammation in the mouth. Steeping the flowers in water makes a soothing wash you can gargle with to help relieve sore throats and tonsils.
If you are not using all of the sloe berries you have picked, they can be frozen and used when you want.
Despite its sour taste when fresh, the sloe berry has many culinary uses. Let’s not overlook this plentiful hedgerow fruit. Ready, Set, Pick!