Autumn is a great time to forage for food in the hedgerows. This article looks at two of natures delights - the wild blackberry and the sloe. (written by Celia Cox)

Blackberries have toothed leaves and backwardly sharp pointing thorns. They grow on wild arching brambles found in hedgerows, woodlands, and waste ground. The most flavoursome are those which have grown on plants in direct sunlight. Pick only the fully black blackberries as under-ripe are tart and will not ripen further once picked. Avoid low growing berries which may be contaminated by rain hitting the ground, or dog urine. blackberries

Try one of these recipes. 

The leaves can be chewed for headaches or steeped in boiling water to make a tea for mouth ulcers, sore throats and gum disease.

Sloes are the berries of the Blackthorn tree/large shrub (Prunus spinosa) – so named because of its thorny spikes. They are generally found in hedgerows, field boundaries and woodlands. They are bigger than blueberries but have the same blue hue.

sloeSloes are a great favourite at this time of year as they are the essential agreement in making sloe gin. They are usually ripe for picking in October or November ideally after the first frost, as this softens their skins. However, an alternative is to freeze the berries.

There are lots of recipes for cooking sloes but the most popular is to make sloe gin. 

  • About 500g ripe sloes
  • About 250g sugar (the more sugar means the quicker the flavour comes out but will make it sweeter)
  • About 1 litre of gin (any gin, or even vodka)

Prick the sloes and put them in a Kilner jar. Add the sugar and the gin, close the lid and shake, Store in a cool dark cupboard and shake every day until the sugar has all dissolved.  Shake the jar every week. After about three months strain through muslin into a sterilised bottle. 

Foraging Rules

  • Always ensure you identify the plant correctly before picking.
  • Always leave some berries behind for wildlife and others.
  • Never pick in places that are subject to pollution, roadsides, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.).