Not only birds like to taste the berries of the sloe, but we humans can also benefit from the fruits. We reveal when and how to proceed with the harvest and how best to process sloes.
Sloes ( Prunus spinosa ) often grow wild and can be found on many roadsides, slopes, or hedges. Birds love the black and blueberries and find plenty of food on the bushes in autumn. But humans can also use and process the healthy berries of sloe. In this article, we will tell you when it is best to harvest sloes, how to proceed and what delicious things can be made from sloes.
The right time to harvest sloes
When can sloes be harvested? Sloes are ripe when the skin is deep blue-black up to the base of the stem. This means that you can pick the first ripe sloes as early as autumn. One advantage of harvesting sloes early is that the chances are then greatest that not all of the fruits have been stolen by birds. Because birds love the fruits of the sloe. However, in autumn the berries still contain a lot of tannins and bitter substances, which do not make the fruits taste delicious. But that changes after the first frost. Because once the fruits are frozen through, their cell walls become more permeable and the starch is converted into sugar. At the same time, the tannin content decreases. As a result, the fruits taste milder. Sloes should therefore be harvested between the end of November and mid-December.
Harvesting sloes: this is how you pick them
Sloes are not called sloe thorns for anything: The branches are very prickly and covered with many thorns. Picking sloes is therefore not that easy. It is therefore advisable to wear gloves and long-sleeved clothing when harvesting. The berries are then picked from the branch one at a time.
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Can you eat sloes raw?
The rumor persists that sloes are poisonous when raw and therefore cannot be eaten fresh. This is only partially true, however, because sloes can very well be enjoyed raw – but only in moderation. The kernels of the sloe contain amygdalin. After consumption, this substance is converted into hydrogen cyanide by our body. This is very toxic to humans. However, the content in the small kernels of the sloe berries is only low, so that you would have to eat huge amounts of sloes to poison yourself.
Quite apart from the fact that adults can safely consume raw sloes in small quantities, many people do not like raw sloes because they are bitter and astringent. However, this is mainly the case if the fruits have not yet suffered frost. It is worth trying the raw fruits, however, as they are supposed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, stomach-calming, and digestive effects and are therefore very healthy.
Dry and freeze sloes
Sloes can only be kept for a few days when fresh. Therefore it makes sense to process sloes soon. A simple way to preserve sloes is by drying or freezing. Sloes are best dried in the oven or in a dehydrator. You can then enjoy the dried fruits as a snack, for baking, or in muesli. To freeze sloes, wash and dry the fruit, then place them in freezer bags. In this way, the fruits can be kept in the freezer for several months.
Process sloes: You can do this with the fruits
Sloes are extremely versatile and there have been numerous recipes with sloes for centuries. The classic is of course the sloe liqueur, but jam or juice made from sloe also tastes delicious and is healthy.
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Sloe juice and syrup
Sloe juice can be easily made from sloes, water, sugar, and lemon juice. The juice contains plenty of vitamin C, flavonoids as well as tannins, and bitter substances. The latter in particular are very healthy and have a diuretic and appetizing effect and help with cystitis. Sloe syrup has similar properties and can be boiled down from sloes with water, sugar, and lemon juice.
Sloe wine, schnapps and liquor
If you like it a little alcoholic or even high-proof, you will surely like sloe wine or sloe liqueur. Sloe wine is prepared in a wine balloon with water, sugar, and fermentation yeast and can be fermented either tart and similar to red wine or sweet like a dessert wine. To make sloe schnapps, you need a distillation system and some knowledge of how to make schnapps. However, it is easier to prepare sloe liqueur yourself. Sloe liqueur is also called sloe fire or sloe gin and is made up of sugar and gin, rum, vodka, or grain. If you like, you can season the whole thing with cinnamon, cloves, or star anise.
Sloe jam tastes delicious and is a great way to preserve the fruit. The preparation is very simple: only sloes are boiled down with preserving sugar in a ratio of one to one.