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Unusual & Old Fashioned Fruit Trees


Blackthorn – Prunus Spinosa – Sloes

This very thorny tree grows up to about 20 feet and is of course native throughout Europe where it can often be found growing in rough hedges down many country lanes. As the Blackthorn tree, or bush, as it more usually grows, has always been around country folk found a use for its, dark, astringent berries long ago. The berries are of course known better under their other name of “Sloes” and have traditionally been used as a flavouring agent to make “Sloe Gin,” which is done by simply putting some berries covered with sugar, into a basin, topped up with Gin. After soaking the berries will impart an Almond flavour to the Gin. As with most fruits they can also be used in general cooking for making jams etc and the Gin soaked Sloes can be dipped in chocolate to make little "Petit Fors." 

The Blackthorn is a member of the “Cherry Family or Prunus” and as such suckers feely, but the berries do not have the same eating qualities as cherries and are not normally eaten as fruit, because they cause constipation. As with most of the Cherry family the Blackthorn will produce a burst of white flowers early in the season before the leaves develop, although they have not been hybridised to make the most of their flowering unlike cherries, nor has their fruit production been maximised. It is not a plant to be deliberately planted in the garden for its fruit harvest, but if you wanted to experiment with making Sloe Gin, or try using the berries in cooking, then it might be worth planting one or two bushes when creating a new boundary hedge. Farmers are more likely to plant Blackthorns in a mixed hedge for the benefits it brings the wildlife.

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