The Nire Valley

The Nire Valley
The Heart of the Comeragh Mountains.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A sloe day in the country.

At the bottom of my garden are two trees six feet apart and but seperated by 4,000 years!

One is a plum tree the other a blackthorn. The plums, purple/red, are juicy and very sweet, the sloe is small hard with a magnificent black and electric blue skin. Anyone who has bitten into to a sloe knows they are bitter, astringent to be exact as they dry out your mouth in an instant leaving you unable to taste anything for several moments. Yet these two trees are related as plums were breed from the sloe.

The sloe producing blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) comes into bloom in March and is the first full blown hint of spring that nature gives us.  We frequently get cold, stormy weather in early April blowing all the blackthorn petals off the branches leaving the roadside covered with white petal blossom and in parts of England this is called blackthorn winter. The blackthorn is used for fencing as its long thorns make it impenetrable to cattle while the timber of the blackthorn is used to make the Shillelagh walking stick.

Even though the sloe taste is astringent it still has its uses. It is commonly used to make sloe-gin or, my favourite, sloe-apple jelly. It takes a minimum of 3 months to make sloe-gin and thus needs to be carefully planned to have in time for Christmas, but it is better if you can leave it longer.  Sloe-apple jelly is made by adding two parts crab apple one part sloe. The taste is divine, very tart but goes well on scones.

Next time you are in the country, try a sloe.

PS. Wondering, would you be interested in a one day sloe-gin making class in early November. - Just asking.


  1. I am more interested in the sloe/crab apple jelly. I often made the crab jelly but never thought about the sloe.
    Too late now as I am house bound unless I can get somebody to forage for me.

    1. We could see about getting you sloes and may be crab apples, 1lb sloes and 2lb of apples should suffice. If you email me at

    2. Thanks for your kind offer. Very much appreciated. But I am a bit far away from my beloved Comeraghs, ' Is buachaill ó Chluain Meala mé'. Perhaps I can get somebody here to forage locally.