Sloes (Blackthorn)


Common name: Blackthorn, sloe

Botanical name: Prunus spinosa

Family: Rosaceae (Rose)

Worldwide distribution: Native to Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa, though naturalised in other parts of the world.

Local distribution: Very common all over Ireland and the UK, though increasingly scarce in the north of Scotland.

Habitat: Hedgerow, woodland edges and scrub.

Foraging season: Flowers early to late spring and fruit mid to late autumn.


Blackthorn is one of the most abundant shrubs in British hedgerows. Landowners and farmers traditionally planted them to keep land borders and make cattle-proof barriers, because the thorny nature of the shrub forms impenetrable thickets.

It bursts into life in early spring, when masses of densely clustered white flowers appear before the leaves are unfurled. The bloom is edible and taste a bit like almonds.

Having said that, we are most interested in the sloes, the deep purple berries that start to ripen in early autumn. They are technically fruits and are the smallest and tartest of all the plum family.

The fruit is too tart to eat raw, but is ideal to infuse alcoholic drinks; the flavoursome sloe gin is an old favourite but can be used to make pacharan or bargnolino. The fruit leftovers have been traditionally used to make sloe gin chocolates.


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3 thoughts on “Sloes (Blackthorn)”

  1. Pick the sloe wash them well i put them in fridge for a day or two wondering how to eat them and then i put about 30 to 40 of them in a saucepanon a hot ring and just covered the top of them with boiling water save cooking time and getle simmered them for approx two hours with a lid on keep to keep heat in at 3 different stages i added 3 good table spoons of raw honey from my keeper bee friend and every so often i would give them a vigorus stir when time was up i left them in pan till next day i then strained the liquid into a small jug and put it in fridge to have as a drink at a later time the sloes went into a basin into the fridge for a day next day i had some apple sauce that i had in freezer cooked many days before once unfrozen i added about 4 table spoons full to the sloes in the dish and a good splash of fresh double organic cream then 3 table spoons of ambroia delux custard stirred it all together dished it out to the family no dry mouth no bitterness a perfect after pudding perfect family complained i should have made more .Warning i left the stones in the fruit at all times we put them i themn a dish as we were eating now there in the garden so we eill have our vrry own sloes in time


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