Sloe gin – finding your own sloes

Sloe gin
Sloe gin

Last year’s sloe gin has been steeping for ten months now – it’s time to decant. I found these pretty bottles at Lakeland (where they’re marketed especially for sloe gin), and filled four of them from last year’s Rumtopf.

I’ll be able to start collecting sloes, hopefully, some time next month. A quick recap – pick sloes after the first frost, prick them all over with a needle and for every pound of sloes you collect, pour over 8 oz of caster sugar and 1 ¾ pints of gin, then seal. You can leave the gin for as little as two months to steep, agitating the container occasionally, but the longer you leave it, the smoother the results will be.


I’ve had a few emails asking what a sloe bush looks like and where to find one, so I went down to the woods today (no big surprises) and took some pictures. The sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn bush, and you’ll often find them making up part of a hedgerow, or growing near the edge of a field. If you don’t live in the countryside, don’t despair – blackthorn can be found in scrubby land in towns, and is often planted in parks. Most of England’s public footpaths will have at least one sloe bush on its route, and a very pleasant afternoon can be spent foraging the hedgerows for a carrier-bag full.

Sloes, clustered on branch
Sloes, clustered on branch (this was a particularly heavily fruiting bush)

The blackthorn bush grows to between 3 and 13 feet tall. If you have sharp eyes, you can identify the bush in the spring by its froth of white flowers and remember where it is for later in the year. Although the fruits here look purple and delicious, they’re not ready yet (September 1) – you really need to pick them after a frost, which gives them time to ripen, softens their astringency and makes them easier to prick. If, as happened last year, the frosts just aren’t happening, pick in November and put them in the freezer.

These ones are damsons, a wild plum. They'll make a great gin too (and they're edible raw, unlike sloes), but aren't the same fruit.

The sloes are nearly spherical and grow close to the branch. A raw sloe is a particularly disgusting beast – it’s sharp and astringent. It will make your tongue shrivel and your teeth squeak. These purple fruits are not sloes (compare with the picture above) – they’re wild plums, which ripen earlier, have longer stems, are soft to the touch and are sweetly delicious. If in doubt, have a nibble. Both fruits will have stones. If it’s delicious, it’s a plum. If it’s like sucking a fruity deodorant stick, it’s a sloe. The gin takes on all the fruit’s best characteristics, and none of the astringency.

Sloe gin is deliciously versatile. Try pepping up unremarkable Cava with a splash, drink it neat, use it in a martini or add some to mulled wine. I’ll be making another batch next month…until then, cheers!

258 Replies to “Sloe gin – finding your own sloes”

  1. Can I come sloe-hunting when you go? I don’t think there are many bushes in central Cambridge…

    By the way, my dad makes his gin with damsons (no sloes in Lancashire either, evidently). It’s very good that way too and you use the same quantities as for Sloe gin.

  2. Well, I don’t think it’s at all important to wait for a frost before you pick your sloes; this year my favourite tree is already showing a high number of shrivelled, raisiny fruits, and so I picked in mid September and the results look very nice already. Iona: I live near Cambridge, and I’m sure a walk round any nearby hedgerow will find plenty of sloes. Haven’t tried it, but there must be hundreds at Wandlebury! Or try the fringes of the sports fields off Long Road.

  3. Hi – I just picked some sloes today near Stanton Drew, Somerset. It’s only the start of October, but a few of them were already a bit shrivelled. I don’t wait for the frosts either.

  4. Hello, I’m new to your blog 🙂

    We went and picked a bunch of sloes (34 pounds to be exact!) at the weekend (on the golf course at Longstanton).

    What do you recommend with regard to sugar quantities? We’ve heard anything from 2oz to 1lb per pound of sloes/pint of gin!

    Anyways, I look forward to more local info 🙂

  5. Hello! For every pound of sloes I use 8 oz of caster sugar and 1 3/4 pints of gin. (Last year’s gin-making post is here. I suspect the frosts are going to be too late again this year (although there are still bushes heavy with sloes, which aren’t shrivelled here yet, as of October 11), so I picked mine at the weekend too and bunged them in the freezer.

  6. Hi.

    We are in mid wales and have thousands of what we believe to be sloe bushes.
    We gathered a few pounds the other day and just wanted to check whether there are any bushes or berries that look like sloes that are poisonous.



  7. Hi Phil

    No – there’s nothing poisonous that looks similar (although some wild plums, such as damsons, look rather like sloes, only larger). Enjoy your gin!

  8. Hi Anon – you’ll need to freeze them thoroughly (not that this is a problem – it’s fun to keep some in there to turn into sloe gin later in the year too, so you can have a kind of production line going). See the first sloe gin post in this pair for more details.

  9. I used to live in Little Downham near Ely and there are lots of hedgerows there filled with sloes. It might be worth a trip out if you live near Cambridge. Not much going on in Little Downham itself but Ely is worth a visit.

  10. A bit late for this year, but raspberry gin is spectacularly delicious. Wild raspberries usually give a better result than the ones you buy in supermarkets. Recipe – about a pound (half kilo) of raspberries, a few tablespoons of sugar (you can add more later if the result isn’t sweet enough) and a bottle of gin. Put the rasperries into a wide necked container (a two litre bottle is about the right size, but get something with a wide neck if you can). Add the sugar. Shake until the raspberries are broken up a bit. Add gin. Put the top on the container. Shake daily (or whenever you remember) until November. Leave to settle. Decant the delicious red rasperry gin into a nice bottle. Don’t throw the rasps out, put them onto a meringue or some icecream and have them as a treat (but don’t drive afterwards!)

  11. 5 Sep 2007: Cambridge Sloe Update: Back of longstanton golf course is pretty bare this year. No bushes along the side of the river, either, all the way up to the railway bridge. Tomorrow trying the Grantchester Grind and seeing if there are any there. The ones that I’ve seen, however, are ready…

  12. Good grief, Cambridge/shire is full of sloes!

    Try along the (Longstanton, for instance?) stretches of disused railway lines, while you can. I’m sure all those fluffy white blossoms alaong the road towards Willingham are also sloes (blackthorn).

    I’m told that here in Waterbeach there are masses of them, too, but haven’t had the time or inclination to investigate, though I have been given bags full to pass on.

    I can’t stand gin.
    What makes a good, drinkable alternative?

  13. It’s been a great year for sloes – the wet summer and warm spring has meant there are tonnes of the things weighing the bushes down at the moment, so get out there while you can!

    If you don’t like gin, vodka works equally well – you can also make a lovely drink following these instructions but using brandy instead.

  14. there are sloes in the hedgerow along the path from asda to york street near, central cambridge (beehive) although I’ve got a lot of them!

    also along, milton railway line (disued), for which you take the number 1 citibus to CRC college, and turn right along the railway which runs parallell with the science park- it’s a fantastic walk along there in the late summer, but this time of year there are a lot of greengages, apples, sloes, rosehips and so on, and it’s not bad for blackberries usually, but a bit spidery! good luckx

  15. I have read that after washing your sloes, pop them onto a tray & stand them in the freezer until they are white all over to mimic a frost
    Chris Houghton

  16. Greetings everyone..Off to hunt for some sloes but wondered if anyone might be able to point me towards some locations in Somerset, I live near Wells and am prepared to travel.

    Thanks ever so!

  17. Has any tried using the gin soaked fruit after decanting? Try roasting some hazelnuts, chopping them to a smallish size, chopping chunks off the ginny sloes and then melting 70% cocoa solids chocolate and mixing in the sloes and nuts. Spread out, cool, cut into bits and try to stop nibbling them! Waste not, want not!

  18. Hi, Please can anyone in North Lincolnshire, especially Barton upon Humber area, help me with some sloe bushes? I’ve walked miles of hedgerow and found nothing. I’ve asked folks who I know make sloe gin, but the answer always seems to be the same – a kind of polite “find your own!” so maybe they are not so plentiful around here, otherwise I am sure that the information would be forthcoming. Thanks in anticipation of your help. Regards, Gordon

  19. hi i live incheesterfield near sheffield and was woundering if any one has picked some from round here as i cant seem to find any cheers eddy

  20. kept an eye on a few bushes earlier this year .. unfortunately the farmers have shredded them with the hedge cutting attachments on the tractors.
    so off to hunt some more down at away from the main roads.
    I didn’t think you need to freeze the sloe’s, it was just an indication in the past as to the time of year when they would be more palatable.
    please comment if I’m wrong …

  21. Sorry Steve – you’re wrong. 😉 You’ll find a distinct difference in fruitiness and roundness between sloes which have been frozen and sloes which haven’t – try making a control bottle of non-frozen ones alongside sloes you’ve frozen and you’ll be able to taste the difference. I think it has to do with the way that freezing breaks down the cell walls, although I’m sure there are people who know more about the inner workings of sloes out there who can tell you more!

  22. Hi
    anyone looking for sloes in the Cambridge area should try Royston common… go right to the top and follow the foopath off the common through the fields.
    I have had 2 years of successful sloe collecting from there resulting in 10+ litres of gin per year. Sadly a have moved away now so will have to look elsewhere.

  23. Pricking so many sloes is a pain so I just put them in a thick plastic bag and gently bash them with a “heavy implement”. When I first made SG I was told you had to leave it in the dark and turn the jar every week. This seemed a bit of a bore so now I just leave it in the boot of the car where it stays in the dark and gets jiggled nicely.

    By the by, down here in Devon we drink Heart-Starter for elevenses when shooting. Sloe Gin and cheap Fizz. It does what it says on the tin.

  24. Hi Anthony – although I’ve never bothered keeping mine in the dark, frequent jiggling is an excellent idea, and jiggling in the boot of the car is near genius. Thank you!

  25. we have loads of plump sloes growing in lamberhurst (near tunbridge wells) Kent. im a bit confused with all the comments. should i pick them now and freeze them? or wait to see if we get a frost? they look ripe, but to be honest i wouldn't know a ripe sloe if it bit me! They are deep purple (lip curlingly astringent) i can split them open easily enough . any advise?

  26. Lea Valley regional park in Hertfordshire is heaving with sloes as well as crab apples, blackberries, wild plums and damsons – can't wait for the mushroom season to see what delights the park brings then!

  27. Blogger Liz said…

    Hi Phil

    No – there's nothing poisonous that looks similar (although some wild plums, such as damsons, look rather like sloes, only larger). Enjoy your gin!

    Don't listen to her Phil or you'll end up dead. I would be very eazy to confuse Laurel berries with Sloes. They are both blackish spherical fruit that grow close to the stem and have similar looing leaves.

    Laurel berries are DEADLY poisonous as they contain high amounts of cyanide!

    Even the leaves are poisonous (butterfly collecters used to use them to kill butterflys by placing a laurel leaf in a sealed jar).

  28. I picked sloes this morning, not realising that it was too early to gather them in. Help! What do I do now? They are very astringent.
    I live in France, and we are slightly warmer than UK usually.

  29. Hi there, Me n my fella are gunna have a go at making sloe gin. The only thing is that we don't know where to find the Sloe's. We live in Shipley, West Yorkshire. Could anyone help us out at all and tell us whereabouts to look? xx

  30. I pick mine today too (19th Sept 09). I've noticed that autumn fruit in Oxfordshire is about a fortight early this year (blackberries all over) and some of the sloes are becoming raisin-like. I'm going to take a chance now with the ones I've got and pop out again in a month's time and see what's still out there! Thanks to all for the most helpful comments as I've never made Sloe Gin before.

  31. It's quite easy to differentiate sloes and laurel berries. Laurel leaves are glossy and the berries more tightly clustered, whilst sloes tend to be spread along the branch with matt leaves.

  32. Thanks, Whizz. I'd agree – and seriously, people: if you're not able to distinguish the difference between a laurel and a sloe bush, especially with the above photos, you probably need to reconsider foraging as a food source!

  33. When you've finished all the gin. Get a nice fat duck, stuff all the gin soaked sloes into the cavity with some onions or shallots and roast the duck well on a grid so all the juices run out. Just before it is done, pull all the contents of the cavity out and squeeze into the duck juices to make a rich gravy. Pour off the fat first, then reduce in a small pan and add anything that tastes nice, salt, black pepper, red wine and stock etc. Yummy.

  34. It is not rocket science. Buy a bottle of gin and split it in two. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and then add sloes until the 2 bottles are full. the fun begins at christmas

  35. stupid comment, but can you buy sloes anywhere? We live in London, and I have no idea where I'd find sloes growing freely. Interestingly, my Mum lives in the Fen and had the best sloe gin at the weekend, which has prompted my search!

  36. Just went out foraging in Brighton and I think I left it too late! I'll know better next year. Has anyone ever tried 'Pacharan' a Spanish liquer made with sloes and aniseed aperitif (like pastis or ouzo). Delicious!

  37. For those who don't fancy gin: as well as vodka, another alternative is "eau de vie", or schnaps, or any alcohol which is fruit-based. It gives it a nice fruity taste, and gives you the opportunity to make puns: "sloe de vie"

  38. PS: There is another good way of differenciating blackthorn from laurel. The key is in the nameof the blackTHORN. the bushes on which sloes grow are very, very prickly, with thorns several inches long. If you come back from sloe pickig and you haven't got a scratch, then you might want to wonder if you've picked the right bush.

  39. I’ve identified the sloes. Loads in Sheffield. Just a matter of waiting until the time is right. The waiting is going to drive me mad!!!!! I hope its worth it.

  40. Vik.
    Where in Sheffield are the sloes you know of? i live there (S11 Ecclesall). Trust me, home made sloe gin will be worth the wait. Try 2 bottles, one with much less sugar – reminiscent of ribena dry.


  41. Hello,

    I live in Leeds and was really hoping to find some blackthorn bushes nearby – hopefully make my first ever batch of sloe gin (and possibly sloe whisky too)…can anybody please help me with good fruitful hedges? I don’t mind a bit of journey…easily tie it in with a nice walk hopefully.


  42. I picked some sloes today and it looks like I am too early 🙁 . My reasoning was that as we have Blackberries which are ready now in West Sussex, so perhaps the Sloe may be! They taste very bitter …… shall I chuck them away then? 🙁

    Anyhow, I have made a lovely Blackberry and Apple Crumble ………….

  43. I’m a towny and don’t really know what a blackthorn looks like (last year I think I picked plums ….) Anyway where do you think I can pick some sloes, I’m in Highbridge near Burnham on Sea. Thanks – can’t wait to make some sloe gin mmmmmm

  44. Today I picked 3 kilo’s of blackberries and on the way to get them found a bountiful supply of Sloes? cannot wait to get picking to make sloe gin but is there anything else to make with them?

  45. Impatient – give them a shot, after freezing. You should still be OK, and it’ll give you a good excuse to make another batch next month! Marg and Blondie – afraid I can’t help there, but lots of people seem to be commenting on this thread, so keep an eye out in case someone chimes in helpfully. And Jammaker – I haven’t found any other successful application for them (other than substituting the gin for brandy), but I understand that some people have had success enrobing the steeped sloes in chocolate when straining the gin off. You’ll have to temper your chocolate, of course, but if you do experiment with it, I’d love to know how it goes!

  46. After reading your article & comments,as we live on the edge of Plymouth & Dartmoor we can’t wait to go out walking and find some Sloe’s, if all fails we are lucky enough to have a distillary in the heart of Plymouth where we’ll just have to buy one of the finest Sloe gins in the counrty. But i’m sure it’ll be more fun making it ourselfs.If anyone has any tips of where to pick them in our area it would be much appreciated as Dartmoor is a large area to cover. Thankyou Paul & Christine

  47. Marg- I would try Clumber park.Dave which part of Leeds are you? I’m in Huddersfield and there are loads,even bushes that had none last year have got them so looks like there will be no shortage this year!

  48. Thanks very much, Jemma! Dave – I’m in Ilkley myself this weekend, and I’m off for a walk near Leeds tomorrow; I’ll keep an eye out and let you know if I spot any likely bushes.

  49. Paul and Christine in Plymouth – if you walk round the coast path from wembury towards the foot ferry there are loads and loads of sloe bushes, as an alternative to Dartmoor. You can pick a ton of blackberries here too and elderberries coming soon.

  50. Does anyone know of anywhere to find sloes near Aberdeen? Hoping to start sloe gin making this year. If not I’ll just have to content myself with bramble brandy…

  51. i live in greenhithe, kent. just picked about 6lbs of sloes with my going to start the brew in a couple of days after freezing them. roll on christmas.

  52. I have just picked some sloes and put them in the freezer to emulate the first frosts. Hope this will let me use then instead of waiting until much later when I will not be able to pick them. Anyone done this as well?

  53. Can anyone help? The sloes here have started to go black and some are slightly shrivelled,does that mean they are ripe or have they gone over?

  54. I am picking my sloes now as the millions of birds around the field will strip them as soon as they are ready. They are a great size, plump and pick easily. I put them in a bowl with a bunch of bananas for a week or so before freezing, I prick them with a stitch splitter and the gin is wonderful. (so says my husband) I don’t drink! but love gathering and making the gin.

  55. Hi June

    Both stitch-splitter and banana ideas are really useful – thanks very much. And my heart goes out to you not being able to try the fruits of your labour; there’s real wifely devotion for you!

  56. Don’t bother to prick them. When you have washed them and put them in the container add the sugar and gin and just go over them with a potato masher. As the sloes are ripe the flesh can be crushed easier. Do this every couple of days – works quicker.

  57. Doing an information trade here – there are sloes in the hedgerows near Nine Wells LNR. Anyone know where I can find some wild damsons in the Cambridge-ish area?

  58. Crofty/anyone local to Dartford
    Looking for sloes – not collected these before – although have collected ample elderberrys and blackberrys today – as a bonus found an abandoned orchard and collected loads of nice apples … happy to point ppl towards this – so pls point me towards some sloes – im in bexleyheath.

  59. Hi.
    Anyone know where there is any sloe’s in the rotherham, greasbrough area as im dying to try and make some sloe vodka but i’ve been searching around and can not find any.
    Many thanks

  60. Yes, steeped sloes are DIVINE turned into chocolates. My mum always make sloe gin & a few years back we took out the sloes, chopped them roughly then poured into melted dark chocolate (good quality, 70% cocoa solids), put teaspoonfuls on baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper and allowed to set. They were incredible. You don’t need much chocolate, just enough to hold everything together.

    I’m off in search of sloes in North Manchester today. Last year as a cost-cutting exercise I made hampers of homemade goodies as Christmas gifts. They went down so spectacularly well I’m doing them again this year. Can anyone recommend small bottles to put the gin in as gifts?

  61. Hi FTF – Lakeland is your best bet for bottles (also jars) for hampers. Most impressed; there’s little so time-consuming as putting a load of hampers together!

  62. I have used caster sugar for my first batch(normally use granulated sugar)The sugar has dissolved very quickly, I presume this is normal? Either that or I’m going to have very sharp Gin!

  63. Nottingham/Derby – Attenborough Nature Reserve.

    Found 3 10′ bushes on one of the paths, ripe now by the look of them. Thanks for posting those pictures here, i needed to ID what i had picked. They are starting to shrivel up slightly and feel ripe, so into the freezer they go 🙂

    Also found a huge number of Elderberrys, Blackberries that have past their best, and quite a few rosehips too.
    Car park is £1.50 charitable donation, and the coffee shop in the nature centre is well worth a visit.

  64. @ Chris:

    Burgess Hill: lanes, bridleways field borders and footpaths to the east of Ockley Lane are stacked with sloes (you can find Ockley Lane by turning left at the Bull in Ditchling and the right at the next MAJOR turning at Keymer. It’s worth diving deep into the fields and meadows as lots are picked out already (I got 2 carrier bags full in about an hour)

    Arlington: There is a large scrubby marshland/meadow on the East bank of Arlington Reservoir. Plenty of sloes, particularly at the south east of the area near the road bridge and along the roadside near the road bridge. It’s a nice walk anti-clockwise from Arlington reservoir carpark and then along the road until you meet the bridge. I got about 1/2 a carrier bag full there 2-weeks ago , and there were quite a few still ripening.

    Good luck, although I fear you might be late for this year as they have ripened very early in Sussex.

  65. Hi last year i brought sloes in a farmers shop in the Lake District I live in Bedfont Lakes by the heathrow airport and i am looking out for sloes to pick so far have only found small berries a little bigger than a blueberry what exactly does a sloe look like i want to go foraging this weekend

  66. Hi, is there anyone that can help me find sloes in tunbridge wells, Kent or anywhere closer to that? directions would be really helpfull………

    thank you

  67. @Rob – depending on where in Lancs you are (and also for those in the area) there are lots of sloes in Drinkwater Park. Some are so ripe they have already split or shrivelled, others still ripening. It’s a beautiful walk too!

    3 bottles made and slowly turning red. Even better when I saw Sloe Gin on sale for £4 more per bottle than the same brand of ordinary gin, and with a lower alcohol content.

  68. Does anyone know of sloe bushes anywhere in Surrey?? Getting desperate now.

    Also= try making flapjacks with the used berries- but don’t drive afterwards!

  69. You can find sloes in Tunbridge Wells Southborough. From T/Wells come along the main Road (St Johns Rd)towards Tonbridge. When you get to the traffic lights in Southborough just before the Fire Station take a left (you are now in Speldhurst Road). Carry on down this Rd and you will pass a few turnings on your right You will pass a Rd on right called Ladys Gift Road, then another called Kibbles Lane. Just after Kibbles Lane (immediately just after) on the right there is a grass bank with parking for a few cars in front of some houses, park here and directly opposite is a gate entrance to the field (where cows are kept). Enter and you should find an abundance of sloes. If you have a Sat Nav the postcode is TN4 0JE. I have in the past collected sloes here (as I live opposite so have first pickings haha….)and made delicious sloe vodka (dont like gin myself). I plan on going out today and picking sloes ready for sloe vodka to be made for xmas presents. Good Luck!

  70. I found a handful in Richmond Park, but they were already picked over. I only got these by wading through nettles. Although I looked high and low in different places in the park I couldn’t find any more. I would love to find some within 5 miles or so of Richmond if anyone can point me in the right direction. However, I might just try Wendy’s location if there are none closer.

  71. Hi, Looking for sloes in Wakefield, as close as possible to Lupset as I don’t drive. Can anyone help please. I’ve been wanting to make sloe gin for yonks now. Many thanks.

  72. John From wakefield
    You must be joking,you live right next to the biggest collection of blackthorn bushes I have ever seen!!!! Walk round Pugneys,the whole of the back of the walk is lined with bushes right at the side of the path and there are millions there this year.We picked 6lb in 40 minutes the other day.they are very ripe so get picking! 🙂

  73. We received some of these as a present and I have rated 2 stars because of the plastic tops and the price!

    Ceramic Tops is a must, every summer I buy about 12 bottles of cider with a hint of elderflower, they cost £2.99 each which includes the cider!!! I just soak them to remove the label and then store them and then use them for making edible/drinkable gifts for Christmas; they look great, have ceramic tops, and are re-usable and effectively free!

    PS – I bet Lakeland don’t post my review – but you can read it here 😀

  74. Hi, Great adivce about when to pick sloes. Thank you. I was given a bottle of gin last year and am desperate to make my sloe gin. I live in Caversham, Berkshire. Does anyone know where I can collect some sloes in East Berkshire/South Oxfordshire.

  75. Hi.
    I live in Central Scotland ( Cumbernauld area ) , can anybody help me find some sloe bushes in my area.
    We tasted Sloe Whiskey last year and would like to make some of my own.


  76. Hi,
    I live in the Cumbernauld area in Central Scotland and cannot find any sloe bushes .
    Can anyone help me find some in my local neighbourhood.
    I tried sloe Whiskey last year and would like to make some of my own.

  77. Hi

    Can anyone help me find sloes in the Cumbernauld area in Central Scotland.
    I have walked miles but no luck so far.

    I tried Sloe whisky last year and would like to make some of my own.


  78. Hello, I am also looking for a good sloe picking place, i live in west devon,the hedge we usually pick has been laid! any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,

  79. Hi I live in Mid Glamorgan just outside the Rhondda valleys does anyone know where I can find sloes near to this area. I tried sloe gin once in Norfolk more years ago than I care to remember and have promised the family I will make it if any sloes can be found

  80. Just finished making a litre. Fortunately able to pick the sloes from the bushes in the garden of my block of flats in W5 so I had to travel all of 15 yards.

  81. I’m in Little Aston Sutton Coldfield west mids…I just don’t fancy ruining a good bottle of gin with them just in case they’re the wrong thing!

  82. Michaela – lots of slows to be had in Drinkwater Park (Prestwich/Salford) but eould go ASAP, some of them were almost too ripe last week. Good luck!

  83. There are some around Chessington World of Adventures – There are lots between the road and Small carpark beside the ticket booths – the only problem is whether they are OK to use because of the pollution from the road – can anyone please advise – otherwise I have been told that they are all over the surrounding area, so have a look – I’m planning to go next weekend.

  84. Many thanks to Jemma for the post of 24 Sept. Pugneys was a great spot, but if anybody knows where I can find sloes nearer to Halifax it would be really helpful

  85. Nigel, there will be loads of places near us but I just haven’t found them yet.Should be easier to find them in spring when the blossum is out

  86. Sloes in Surrey, for future reference, probably gone for this year but there are sloe bushes in plenty on the walks around Newlands Corner. I think i saw bushes round Pewley Downs too, def at Newlands though

  87. Hi can anyone tell me is it to late late for this year to pick sloes, i live in ashford kent and am new to this would like to make sloe gin. Can anyone suggest where i can find some sloe berries,thanks.

  88. Hi all. Thanks to everyone who has contacted me for sloes. There are still masses on the trees, so if anyone still wants to buy some, then contact me at fiona@beremarshfarm

  89. Hi folks. I am having a little difficulty identifying sloes in my local area. I am in reading, Berkshire and went out picking in the caversham area today. In hindsight what I collected are not sloes, they are too small, shiny and the bush didn’t have the spikes I should have found. Any ideas what these might actually be?

    It would really help to know what colour the flesh of a sloe is? I found what I think is a blackthorn bush but the berries have dark skins and pale flesh, is this expected?

    1. Hi Simon

      Sloes do have dark skins and pale flesh, so what you found latterly sounds absolutely right. Sounds like your first batch weren’t sloes, though – do you have a picture?

  90. I think we have found a sloe bush, the fruit is the right colour with a bluish tinge but they have a stone in them & this is not mentioned anywhere, do they have a stone?

    1. Hi Sylvie – yup, those are sloes. I think the other sloe post mentions stones, but unaccountably I seem to have failed to mention them on this one – I’ll go and amend the post now!

  91. Hi
    just like to say you dont have to use just gin for this, i make sloe vodka and sloe whisky and boy is it great… i hate whisky so much but u make sloe whisky its so so different…
    its now november and i am still seeing some sloes on the bushes near me tempting to make more hahaha x I know liz has the answers to most questions but the little tip i have to identify sloe`s cos damsens are simmilar .. slit it with nail if it taste soar its a sloe if it tastes sweet then its a damsen.. thanks x

  92. Ruby, I live in Ashford and went out today to pick some sloes, You need to go out towards the roundabout by tesco park farm, there is an old bit of road that has been closed off for years by the vets, loads of sloes down there.

  93. Hi,
    We visit France very often where they love making liqueurs. They laughed when we told them about Sloe Gin – they break open the stone and make a drink called Prunelle. We broke open a stone and they smell of almond essence – it is amazing. Does anyone know a recipe for this drink? – it is delicious.

  94. Hi Ruth,

    My recipe for sloe gin calls for six or a dozen sloe kernels to be mashed up and added to the bottle. This gives the finished drink an almondy roundness and improves the depth of the sloe gin. Without this it can be too medicinal and harsh.

    I’ll google prunelle though…

  95. Hallo all,

    Near where I live in West London/Middlesex the hawthorns are still dripping with sloes. I’ve been experimenting with recipes and methods this year – is it still worth harvesting sloes this late, and after this much snow?! I mean, I like an experiment as much as the next person, but I don’t want to waste my gin completely 😀


    1. Hi Lucy – you definitely won’t be wasting your gin; sloes this late will be lovely and mellow. Try to avoid any that are too shrivelled, and let me know how you get on!

  96. Hi, I’ve just picked 2lb of sloes today (8th December)- they were in lovely condition and they’re already in the bottle. Should be ready about Feb time.

  97. Lucy,

    I too live in West London and was wondering if you knew of any areas where sloe berries can be found around our area. Will they still be available this late into December now, and also when are the best times to pick them.


  98. Hi Amanda
    I got mine up on the golf course in late October- there are loads of them if you walk from Highams park end across the golf course and then turn left down towards the river in the woods-otherwise keep walking until you get to the next road (10 minutes) and there are loads of sloe bushes on the left walking up towards the Elizabeth hunting lodge. I am now drinking mine but possibly will carry on the second bottle and crush some of the stones as advised by other posters.
    Happy Christmas and happy sloes

  99. Blackthorn bushes are covered in blossum now here in west yorkshire,good time to spot where the bushes are for autumn time.

  100. Thanks for the tip Jemma. Are they easy to spot or could they be confused with any other blossoms? Any chance of that photo Liz? Thanks.

    1. Not at the moment Nigel – I’m in Texas! They are easy to spot – they’re the only densely covered white blossoming hedge in the hedgerow at the moment. If any commenters out there would mind mailing me photos (blackthorn bushes not being in flower in Texas at the minute), I’ll happily put them up on the blog.

  101. Nigel you are looking for white blossum on bare stems- the leaves aren’t out yet.small white flowers just like on the hawthorns(which aren’t in blossum for another month yet)

  102. On the subject of IDENTIFICATION, which has sometimes cropped up:

    If you’re not sure it’s a sloe berry, break it open and you’ll find juicy greenish flesh (a bit like plum flesh) and a stone. It has an aroma a bit like plum, and even tastes similar except that it’s sour and makes your mouth go dry.

    From my own experience, I don’t think it’s easy to tell one shrub from another through photographs – they are too flat, literally! Once you know it it’s obvious, but you need someone to point it out to you in the flesh first. Slow leaves are not particularly distinctive and the “thorns” are sometimes not sharp at all, which is rather confusing.

  103. This is the gin I fell in love over! My now boyfriend used to buy them for me at the old Dragon Bar in Old Street thinking that I was requesting “slow gin.”

  104. The sloes are starting to turn purple now.Looks like a bit of a mixed year.Some bushes are loaded but some are very sparse.

  105. thank you for the photos to identify the blackthorn bush. I realise now that I’ve been looking at a Blackthorn for ages on the playing field near me and didn’t know what it was. Now there will be sloe gin at Christmas to go with the Damson gin that I make.

  106. Hi, I live in Aldershot and I have beem looking for Sloes but I have struggled. However I think I have found a bumper crop, bits its growing in the hedge row on Lorrel trees are these sloes


  107. Hi Liz/everyone
    Does anyone know where in the Sussex Downs (or near Brighton) I might be able to pick sloes. I made my sloe gin with dried sloes off the internet last year and it really wasn’t that good – a bit ‘thin’. Maybe my recipe wasn’t quite right. But I really wan to use fresh fruit this year. I promise I won’t pick loads – just enough to make a bottle or 2!

  108. Hi
    I have just moved to Sunningdale in Berkshire – any good spots for finding sloes, in the area?
    Hoping to get out and identify any good site, a steer in the right direction would be most appreciated!

  109. I have found some sloes in my area but I’m not sure if they are ripe yet. They have a green flesh, but as sloe gin is reddish in colour can you tell me if they are ready to pick or do they turn red when ripe?

  110. have been making sloe gin for a number of years, but not too many in our area (North Yorkshire) this year. Does anyone know if you can buy sloes?

  111. Hi, this is my first year in England and I’m looking fwd to making sloe gin… and I would like to go sloe picking at some point over the next few weeks, any idea of somewhere to go near-ish London?

  112. Hi to everyone who needs sloes this year

    I have a Soil Association certified organic farm in Dorset and can pick and send sloes for £2.50/lb plus postage. Last year we picked right up to Christmas until the snow stopped us!! so, please email me at if you would like some

  113. Hi Susie Brown

    I was in Worthing today and found loads and loads of sloes (or damsons?? – going back to check next weekend now I have got tips on telling the diffence on this site). If they are sloes I’ll give you a shout!

  114. Karen, I’m afraid I don’t know Middleton that well but would maybe try around the golf course near the M62,that’s the sort of area you’d normally find blackthorns. you could also look around the pond area near the cemetery.

  115. Does it matter if it’s a cheap gin there are some own brands that are very reasonable. Also are the sloes ready yet or do we need to wait still?

  116. I use supermarket own label gin and it makes very good sloe gin.I went out picking yesterday and they weren’t ready yet-Yorkshire! They were soft but didn’t come off the bush easily so going to leave them a while longer.

  117. Plenty of sloes to be found on the old railway line between Hedon and birstwick.Also blackberries,wild strawberry, raspberry and apples. Don’t take a lunch with you pick it as you go.

  118. Jemma, can you recommend a reservoir you know of closer to the M62 Hudds for sloe bushes. Pugneys is a bit of a trail but maybe worth it as I’m dying to make some this year and have just left a load at my mates in Notts 🙁 Thanks

  119. I found a lot of blackthorn bushes with sloes aplenty along a disused railway line. Picked 2.5 kilo of them in no time they was that many. I guess the people of Idle dont know what there missing :0)

  120. Does anyone know of a good spot for picking in South London (I live around SW16/Croydon.) Have been meaning to attempt making my own sloe gin for a couple of years, but never found any berries! Thanks.

  121. a question for jemma, do you know if there are any sloes around stroud in gloucestershire. i only want enough for a couple of bottles. oh the pc is gl5 if you need it

  122. Hi Jemma, I live in HD7. I’ve had a look round locally but without success so far. Not looking for loads, enough to make a couple of bottles (about 1kg?). Are they all round Pugneys?

  123. I use half of the above quantity of sloes, and half the quantity of sugar; but I add a couple of slices of apple to to the mix. The result is a far lighter, less syrupy brew. Similarly, is is a most delightful violet colour. When you get it right, you should be able to see through the liquid. A truly ‘cool’ way to drink sloe gin!

  124. Nicki there are some bushes on the lower path at scammonden dam on the car park side.Not sure if there’s any berries left as went last week and they were splitting.

  125. Pugneys has hudreds of bushes lining the path along the opposite side to the ar park.There is normally a very large harvest.Takes 5 mins walk to the start of the bushes from the car park.

  126. Visitors to Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet / Ellesmere Port should try the canal tow-path from Little Mill Industrial Estate* towards the Waterways Museum, I didn’t have time to try the other direction, sun was setting.
    * drive under the M53 and take the first left, Mill Lane, as the road bears right over the canal there’s a short length of road to an unused building; mind the glass on the road and ignore the litter. Walk behind the earth mound and cross the canal, down the steps and turn right, just keep walking.
    Ignore the traffic noise from the M53, I didn’t see any boats on the canal and only 2 dog walkers last Saturday afternoon; take a friend or your dog for company.

  127. I live Round the Keighley area in West Yorks and would appreciate any info regarding where I could find sloe berries. I have only tasted sloe gin once but I vividly remember the sweet taste. Please help!!

  128. Hiya

    We found are sloes at new lands corner in Surrey. It’s near Dorking via shear,

    Very nice place too if you like walking and the views are outstanding

  129. I live in Greater Manchester and keen to make my own Slow gin for this winter, anyone have any ideas where I can find them?


  130. I live in the Ribble Valley. Have been looking around the lanes for blackthorn bushes and have found very few. What I have found is not very promising either. Is it a bad year for sloes?

  131. Pingback: 271: The Birds
  132. Hi Jemma,
    I live in Saddleworth so went over to Scammonden Dam today. I
    parked on the car park then went left down a steepish path onto the lower path by the water. The sailing club was to the left but there didn’t look like there were many bushes that way, so I turned right and walked towards the motorway then back up another path back to the car park. Not a sloe in sight. Was I in the wrong area? From your previous posts it sounds like you can sniff a sloe out at 1000 paces!!

  133. Claire,
    I’ve not been myself but have been told that there are sloes growing by Chorlton Water park. If you google “sloes chortlton” it brings up a link to a blog on mightaswell and someone has kindly posted an ariel photo with the area where the blackthorns are marked out. If you find any more please post and let us know

  134. I found some sloes (or what I think are!) in Chorlton water park. There’s a path opposite the orchids and there are loads growing there! Most have been picked or weathered but there were still some there when I looked yesterday. Good luck!

  135. An excellent Sloe picking track near Filey – a mile of Sloe bushes. Picked 10kg in 3 hours yesterday, but they are mine! LOL, location secret – especially when they sell for around £12 per kilo on eBay!! A good money earner, still thousands left, going back for more today.

  136. Hi im a first timer and I picked some sloes the other day, they are sitting in a carrier and today I went to wash them and found that some were split. They werent when I picked them. Does this mean they are ok or are they off or something? Thank you. Ps Im in Hitchin Herts and there are plenty near me if anyone in that area and you want directions.

  137. Hi, When you have decanted your gin from your sloes, melt chocolate and mix sloes in and let it set – another way to enjoy the delicious taste of Sloe Gin. You can also use Vodka

  138. No sloes to be had in our part of East Yorkshire this year … how disappointing. Have taken cuttings from the Blackthorn and hoping to root them and maybe grow my own. This year have made Rosehip, Giner and Lemon Syrup and Rosehip and Apple Jelly – we shall have a sweet but sober winter!!

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