Not looking like a good harvest this year

Discuss sloe gin recipes - and all those secret family variations! Post your questions and replies here if they are about sloes and gin

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Joined: 01 May 2009, 10:14

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by nidgelowe » 18 Sep 2012, 12:11

i have never found a difference between purple and black sloes as these will often grow on the same bush,some have a blue hue some just plain black,both good results,as for green give them a wide berth as they will be unripe,as for waiting for the first frost i think this is more for guidance on season,i.e.wait until summer and early autumn is out of the way and temperature drops so that sloes will ripen no further,as a rule of thumb i will wait until mid october earliest to early november,however this will mean that sloe gin will not be ready until spring(thats my preference) so our Christmas sloe gin is always the previous harvest,sloe gin steeped in unripe berries or for 6-8 weeks only will not be at its best,if you can leave a bottle till spring you won't be sorry.This is only my personal opinion and i'm sure others will have their own views but its seems a shame to go to all that trouble and finish with a second rate product.
hope that helps

Posts: 3
Joined: 18 Oct 2004, 20:50
Location: Kent, UK

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by skycandy » 18 Sep 2012, 14:04

Report from Kent.........Nothing like the harvest last year. Several friends reporting that their normal plentiful sources are bare!! I have my secret spot and even that is sparse. I feel it must be something to do with the weather. There have been sloes every year for the last few years that | have been making SG. Not this one. I think I will have to do damson or bullace instead. Hopefully just for this year. Thankfully I have 3 gallon demi johns maturing under the stairs from last year :D .
If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done!

Buoyant Babe
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Joined: 29 Sep 2010, 18:22

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by Buoyant Babe » 21 Sep 2012, 14:14

I live in South Shields and both of my 'secret' sloe thickets are practically bare his year. What there is looks blighted and shrivelled. Good job I still have a bottle left over from last year's bountiful crop, so I'll keep this for special occasions. On the up side, lots of blackberries, so I think blackberry vodka may have to see me through the winter.

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Joined: 21 Sep 2012, 17:33

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by angelsgame » 21 Sep 2012, 17:48

i've just been on a recce near Malton, N Yorks, not looking good up here either! but have been told by friends that there are plenty to be found near Henley and Bicester in Oxfordshire, so maybe there are just certain (possibly frost protected areas?) where some sloes have managed to grow.

the reason you're supposed to wait til after the first frost to pick them, is that the cold makes water in the cells expand, which breaks down the cell walls, which helps the gin permeate through the fruit, to give you a better flavour. however, i like to pick them early/mid october so i have a bottle ready by christmas, so i tend to pick them and either leave them in the freezer for 24 hours, or prick them with a pin before bottling, either has much the same effect as waiting for frost! :D

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Joined: 22 Sep 2012, 08:29

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by Medway » 22 Sep 2012, 08:43

We are definately two months behind normal years, here in Medway. But there are many fruits about, bullace are only just ripening and (if people leave them to start to ripen) there are normal crops of sloe, where I pick.
The trouble is that people expect every year to be the same. Even the cob/hazel nuts are under ripe and need another week or two. We had a terrible start to Spring and were lucky for the plants that started to bud and lost them at the early onset, to be able to pick up on a second chance.

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Joined: 07 Nov 2006, 16:39
Location: Stroud, UK

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by spammeplease » 25 Sep 2012, 22:10

I've been worrying about this thread whilst on holiday, but I've been now been able to have a good look at my main sites and it's not too bad at all. So I'll get ready to start picking first week in October, as usual. Sure, it's not a bumper year, but nothing like as bad as, say, 2008 when I had to trespass all over the place to find them.

In my limited experience:

- Some bushes never have any sloes;
- Some bushes nearly always have sloes;
- Some bushes inexplicably have loads of sloes one year;
- Some bushes inexplicably have no sloes one year;
- Some bushes pretend that they won't have any all summer, but then do by late September.

To deal with this, I have a variety of potential sites mostly spotted from a distance when in blossom, and around this time of year I'm looking at every hedge I see for that gorgeous cloud of blue berries shimmering in the sunlight. So, keep looking - the sloes are out there.

Posts: 69
Joined: 01 May 2009, 10:14

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by nidgelowe » 26 Sep 2012, 08:47

i'm with you spammeplease,this time of year i can't pass a hedge without checking it out,another 2 weeks and i'll be picking
my favourite spot in Norfolk,as yet never let me down.

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Joined: 02 Oct 2012, 13:40

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by stevieb » 02 Oct 2012, 14:50

the sloes are out there you just have to look for them, my regular haunt was sparce this year went to an old haunt , bingo 3lb in 15 mins and they are lovely... :D

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Joined: 27 Sep 2008, 14:13
Location: Coventry

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by penguinbrau » 04 Oct 2012, 22:35

I haven't had a proper check on my 3 regular sloe-picking sites but I had a look at one near work yesterday and there were hardly any sloes on the bushes.

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Joined: 22 Nov 2011, 17:09

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by RUBYTUESDAY » 07 Oct 2012, 18:14

My reliable source for the last 20 years is a disaster zone... could have cried when I visited today to pick. They are sparser there is no denying, but most of them are massive and have split, some have an earlier split in that has scarred over, some have a brownish growth on them, and some are just mutants! they look like two sloes stuck together and have a brownish crust on them.
Oh dear. I took my sons girlfriend with me who is a first timer and it was so dissapointing. We maybe managed 2lbs between us, and only becuase my son who is 6feet 4 ins managed to reach the higher boughs and allow us to harvest them.
Looks like I may have left it too late there was evidence of previous picking, and normally the boughs are laden and nobody ever picks in this spot. Its a dog walking area not many people know about, but thats not the reason it was so safe, i dont think the few people who used it knew what they were or what to do with them, but someone obviously does now!
I blame Kirsty Alsop personally, not that its her picking them you understand , he he, but all her homemade this and that programes, encouraging people to get into the old crafts an make jam and so on.
Oh well that s my grumble, sorry all.

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Joined: 04 Aug 2012, 14:07

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by lisa110rry » 07 Oct 2012, 22:49

I was seriously worried up here in Lancashire but got eight pounds last weekend, cleaned and froze them. We have had one very light frost which is unusual so near the Irish Sea. Normally if I waited for the first frost the would all have disappeared or shrivelled up as we are very sheltered here.

Nothing like as much fruit as last year though...

I plan to try ginger vodka this year as a change to make up for the paucity of sloes.

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Joined: 24 Oct 2010, 18:38

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by Col » 13 Oct 2012, 17:18

Another disaster story from the Scottish borders. Visited both my usual locations, where there are usually plenty. Managed to pick a grand total of 6 sloes, all of which were blighted and/or shrivelled. The leaves on the bushes probably had a bit more blight on them than usual, though I don't think that is anything to worry about. I suspect the weather this year is to blame.

Fortunately I have enough in the freezer from last year (itself a bit poor) and 2010 (a bumper crop).


Early Bird
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Joined: 30 Sep 2010, 13:41
Location: Molesey, Surrey

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by Early Bird » 15 Oct 2012, 22:01

I checked out my usual site at the Wilderness a couple of weeks back and there are some there but about half what there was last year. They didn't feel (or taste) ripe at that time so I elected to leave them. I plan to go back in the very near future and hope that birds/other pickers have not had them all by now. I haven't seen much down Hurst Road, but I did see someone picking there as I drove down there about 3 weeks back, was that you SWLondoner?

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Joined: 28 Sep 2011, 19:04

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by SWLondoner » 17 Oct 2012, 15:09

Not me...I've just got back from there now.

Lots still on the bushes. I also found a whole load on the road to the leisure centre.

Only managed to get 1/2 kilo before the heavens opened...

I'm going back on the weekend to get more.

There's plenty all around the area, so if any ones needs them - Hurst Rd is still the best spot in SW London!!!

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Joined: 01 Nov 2011, 00:08

Re: Not looking like a good harvest this year

Post by Moonich » 18 Oct 2012, 00:10

I had a look at The Wilderness at the weekend - must have been looking in totally the wrong place as all I found was brambles & blackcurrents. I was wandering round the football pitches, but never had a chance to look over the other side of the park when I got a call to be somewhere else. I bet that's where they were! But conveniently had to go down Hurst Road on the way back and nabbed a quick 3lb in 20 minutes. :D

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