Sloe foraging is a rewarding pastime

Do you know what a Sloe is? Do you know what one looks like or why you might want to seek them out? Gayle Palmer explains more…

A Sloe is a small wild plum. Unlike most plums the small purple fruit with a blue bloom to the skin is not usually ripe until later in the Summer. 2017 though has caused them to ripen about 6 weeks early though! Be wary though – although they look delicious they are actually very bitter – like a lemon – and the juice will make your mouth and lips screw up!! (It’s a good joke for the un-knowing!)

supersloes Sloe foraging is a rewarding pastime

The Sloe is know by its Latin name of Prunus spinosa (as they protect their fruits with sharp little spines!). They are the fruit of the Blackthorn tree which is commonly found in the hedgerows, particularly in West Sussex and causes the clouds of white blossom in the Spring.

Whilst the fruit when fresh it is pretty inedible, but once they are fully ripe (hint below to help the juice come out better is below) they can be turned into the most wonderful Sloe – Gin, Vodka, Jelly, Jelly Cheese or even syrup!

Sloe Gin is my favourite.

So how do you identify them?

Watch the video via Facebook for more information.

Sloes – what are they?

sloesbushes-225x300 Sloe foraging is a rewarding pastime

Usually the fruits are not ready to be picked until October and are said to be best after the first frosts! The easiest way to force them to give up their flavoured juice, or to pick them and then use them when you have time (vs immediately) is to remove the stalks and any leaves / debris and then freeze them whole! DO NOT take off the yeast bloom on the skin surface, it is needed later.

Have you seen a “Super Sloe”?? Video here

We have monster sloes nearby the houses!! So much quicker to pick!


  • Put the sloes once cleaned in the freezer, twice. Allow to defrost, then freeze again OR prick each sloe a few times with a fat pin. Mind your fingers! These measures allow the juice to run.
  • To a pound of sloes (450g) you will need about 3-4oz of sugar.
  • In the bottom of a clean bottle put in an inch layer of sloes, add a small amount of castor sugar.
  • Continue until 3/4 full.
  • Fill bottle with the spirit of your choice. Seal.
  • Store in a cool, dark place and shake gently or invert every few days for at least 6 weeks for the best results.
  • After 3 months of “stewing” it is ready to decant off the sloes from the liquor with a muslin sieve into a clean, sterilised bottle. Seal and then label.

Decorated nicely these make excellent Christmas presents.

Top tip: Drink in small glasses with cheese and biscuits or add to some bubbly.

Depending on the juice content of the sloes so you will need to add more or less sugar, and it depends on your own taste – whether you want more of a syrup or not.. Experiment!

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© Chichester Self 2017