Sloes are secretive; if you weren’t looking for them, you would probably not notice they were there. Unlike brambles which announce themselves with red berries before colouring to purple juicy ripeness, sloe berries turn directly from green to black. Similarly, sloe pickers can be secretive about their sources. Where I Iive, there is a place that everyone interested in picking sloes knows about. But a few years ago, quite by chance, we discovered somewhere new. I can’t tell you where it is though.
The best way to pick sloes is to find a handy branch to hook your bag, so you have one hand to pull down a laden branch while the other gathers the berries. Due to the berries’ hardness, you can also strip them from the branch in a whoosh if you don’t mind removing all the leaves and pieces of broken bark afterwards.
In no time at all, we had 7lbs of sloes. They’re now in the freezer, their skins bursting before they’re defrosted and mixed with gin and sugar. Come Christmas, it’ll be time to crack open the first bottle.