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BlackthornSloe Berries

By Leanne Downs4 October 2018

Blackthorn or Prunus Spinosa is also known as ‘Sloe’. Its berries are mostly appreciated for their use in making Sloe Gin.

Where can I find it?

Blackthorn is a shrub which can be found all over Britain. Historically it has been used in creating dense hedges to prevent farm animals escaping from pastures, and as a result, it can often be found along roadsides and on the edges of farmland.

There are large thorns along the branches of blackthorn and the leaves are small and oval shaped


The berries ripen in the Autumn and it’s often said that it is best to wait for the first frost before harvesting, as it is believed to help soften the skin of the berry, making it easier for the juices to escape when using in food products. However, many sloe pickers will pick whenever the berry is ripe and ready, usually in October and November.

Blackthorn is commonly grown along the edges of fields to create a dense animal-proof barrier

How to identify Blackthorn and Sloe Berries

Blackthorn is easiest to identify in the Autumn when the fruits are ripe or in the early spring when it blossoms.

The branches have long thorns on them and the leaves are oval shaped with a serrated margin, growing between 2 and 4.5 cm in length. The blossoms are creamy-white and have five petals.

Sloe berries are round and black with a mottled purple-blue finish, about 1cm in diameter. Inside they have a small stone and greenish flesh.

The berries are small, round and black in colour with a mottled purple-blue appearance


Mostly commonly used for steeping in gin to give it a rich purple-red colour and deep fruity flavour, popular at Christmas time. It is also used for wine and creating other liqueurs across Europe.

Other less common uses include jams and chutneys or for pickling in vinegar. The juice from the berries can be used to dye material a pale blue colour. Wood from the shrub itself makes good firewood and has been used traditionally to make walking sticks.

Leanne Downs

About Leanne Downs

Leanne Downs is the content editor for Thryve and works as an outdoor writer, blogger and photographer. She loves hiking, hillwalking and wild camping.

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