Early Sloes

Sloes in Cornwall
First sloes of the year?


Early August sloes abound in the South West of England, but if you’re looking to make sloe gin, you’ll need to wait until September or ideally after the first frost…



No-one can forget their first taste of sloe gin – glistening scarlet, sweet and sticky, usually proferred with great ceremony by a proud host or hostess and rarely limited to a single glass…

Traditional wisdom states that sloes should be only be picked in October or November, after they have been softened by the first frost and are truly ‘ripe’ (though I defy anyone to eat one straight from the tree without pulling a face like an angry baby and spitooning it skywards after the first bite).

But this is something of a cache 22 – to wait for the best fruit results in the smallest harvest, as the birds and squirrels are less particular about the sourness of these plump little berries. The Cottage Smallholder tried an excellent experiment a few years ago (article here), and found that although the post-frost October berries produced the best, a compromise can be had by picking in September and freezing overnight to simulate the effects of a frost.  Alternatively, pick them at different times, and treat yourself to the ‘Finest Reserve’ sloe gin some time in early December (go on, it never lasts beyond Christmas anyway).