Are these Sloes?
I picked these small, purple fruits from the hedgerow yesterday. The bush/small tree that they grew on had small, green leaves. Their skin is purple, some with a blue'ish bloom, and the flesh is greenish - there's a hard stone in the centre of each fruit. They're all the size of a 5p piece or slightly larger. I'd love to make some sloe gin for Christmas and some sloe jelly but need confirmation that these fruits are indeed sloes (and not something that could be poisonous!!)
The test is to try one! If the inside of your mouth shrivels up with the dryness of the fruit, then, yes, they're sloes! But, seriously, yes they are, from the picture and your description. The only thing you might confuse them with are buckthorn berries which are much smaller, in clusters and don't have that distinctive 'bloom'. The bush from which you picked them will have been awkwardly spiny. They are not yet ripe and will need a frost on them, ideally, before they are ready for 'ginning'.
The "frosting before picking" idea has been dismissed in recent years by some authorities. I always used to bank on it - and then found that, when I went back, all the fruit had been picked by others!
Current thinking seems to be: if the fruits are ripe, pick them and use them. I've just made this year's batch (of damson gin: I can't find any sloes locally since we moved here last November ).
Rather than go for the tedious business of pricking them with a darning needle, you can freeze them. The skins may split on defrosting or you can just give them a bit of a bash with a rolling pin (fruits inside a poly bag!) and go from there.
Last year it was so mild I didn't pick mine until 15th December, when I cut the branches off straight intothe back of my truck and picked off the sloes at leisure. You're right about the frost, it's more as a guide as to when they're likely to be ripe. Often they're picked before they're ready. The resultant gin is so much better when the fruit is ripe. Do consider sloe whisky, too. It really is rather special!
Oooh HC I like the sound of that. But, given the dearth of sloes in my neck of the woods (and no truck to lob a branch or two into anyway) d'you reckon it would work with damsons? I can get lots at the local pannier market.
What a way to ruin whiskey. Try either Sloes or Damson with cheap Vodka, told it is very nice. No good to me as I am allergic to alcohol.
I can't freeze my surplus fruit this year as we are moving and the freezers will be unplugged for at least a week. Don't need any more jams or chutneys either so I made blackcurrant cordial and a liqueur with vodka. Whilst sorting the pantry I found a bottle of blackcurrant Armagnac from last year and blackcurrant vinegar which is luscious.
I have damsons sitting soaking in gin and vodka - two separate kilner jars! - and expect to get something luscious in time for C 2017. It'll be strained in early spring and left to mature. Hope it's good as damsons won't like the new garden.
"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
Sloe port is lovely too
Thanks everybody for your expertise and lovely ideas on how to use my sloes. I intend to get started on the sloe gin in the morning!! And then maybe some sloe and apple jelly with the surplus. Thanks again.
Hi Berrydog, did you try Hortum-cretae's test? I went foraging on Saturday for sloes but I'm convinced that I came back with damsons! Everything that I read convinces me that I did not encounter the dread blackthorn! I actually didn't see any thorns and the berries were much too yielding in texture, this side of the first frost.
I'm thinking of investing in some bare root specimens this autumn. I have space at the allotment but we may be relocating after next year, so I wondered- has anyone grown blackthorn in pots? I'm considering growing some individually in large pots. The next thing is that if i get the ones that are about 1 metre (a year or 2 old) and plant them this year, should I expect sloes by next autumn?
What a waste of effort to deliberately plant blackthorn, unless for an impenetrable hedge. Concentrate on damsons. They have more uses and are preferable in every way.