The best time to pick sloes is when they turn purple-black-blue color with a softer texture. They are fully ripe before autumn, and you can start picking them around mid-autumn.

fully ripe before autumn

However, the ultimate timing can vary depending on the age of the bush and weather conditions. Grown on roadsides, hedges, and slopes, sloe berries are not only for birds but are beneficial for humans in several ways. If you are wondering how and when to pick sloes and their uses, you are at the right place. Here is everything you need to learn about sloe berries.

When Is The Right Time to Pick Sloes?

The end of November and the mid-December are the best times of the year when sloes are ready to be picked. It is best to get the tasty flavor when the sloes are fully ripe. They usually ripen near mid of Autumn, and you can notice it by their deep blue and black color. You can harvest sloes at the start of Autumn to get undamaged fruit that birds haven’t stolen. But the berries will taste bitter at this period which might not be pleasing for taste buds.

Here is the complete timeline of sloes from planting to harvesting stage:

  • The most suitable time to plant blackthorn bush is Autumn. The winter conditions can make the growth difficult, so planting in Autumn provides enough period for plant roots to gain strength.
  • Your plant starts to flower by the end of April when the blackthorn bush fills with white flowers.
  • In Autumn, the berries start to grow on the plant. At the start, the sloe will be unripened, but the color, texture, and taste change with time.
  • Sooner, the sloe berries will ripe, and you can harvest them.
Blue color flowers are always enchanting to the eyes. Check out the list of blue flowers to grow in your garden.

How to Know Sloe Berries Are Ready to Be Picked?

How to Know Sloe Berries Are Ready to Be Picked

The main indicator of ripened sloes is the taste of berry, which turns from sour to sweet and somewhat pleasing. Other signs are the altered color from green to deep purple, blue and black. Also, the texture will be much softer than the hard one of unripened fruit.

However, the best way to get the most delicious berries is to pick them up until after the first winter frost. The astringency level reduces greatly after this phase when the cold weather breaks the skin of sloe berries.

Also, during this period, the starch in the sloe turns into sugar while the tannins decrease significantly. The increased sugar and reduced tannins make the berries taste amazing.

In case you wait to pass the first frost winter, remember that sloes will be ripened fully, and you are prolonging the time to pick them, which may make them the prey of birds. So, instead of waiting too long, picking sloe before ripening and storing them in the freezer to mimic the cold winter is better. Eating an unripe sloe won’t be a pleasing experience.

Planning to grow climbing flowers in your garden? Check out the list of best climbing flowers.

Where to Find Sloes?

Sloes mostly grow in the UK on Blackthorn bush belonging to the rose family. Mainly, the weather conditions decide the best growth of sloes. If the weather is too dry, berries will be small-sized and shriveled, while wet or cold weather will inhibit their growth. There is a must to have a balanced warmth and water to grow sloes.

When picking sloes, you must be careful as they are covered with thorns and have prickly branches. Wearing gloves or covering arms is important when harvesting sloe berries from the branches.

How Can You Use Sloe?

Have you tried any recipes containing sloes? You might be unaware of the versatility, and numerous recipes with sloes from jams to liqueur sloes can taste delicious as well as healthy for several reasons.

How Can You Use Sloe

Sloe Juice & Syrup

You can make mouth-watering sloe juice by adding water, sugar, and lemon juice to the sloe. You will get sufficient vitamin C, tannins, and flavonoids from this. Also, the sloe syrup is made by boiling the mixture and has diuretic effects to help with cystitis.

Sloe Wine

If you want to try some alcoholic flavors, slow wine or liquor will serve you best. It is usually made in wine ballon by adding water, fermented yeast, and sugar. Sloe liquor is comparably easy to make and is prepared with sloe gin, rum, grain, or vodka.

Sloe Jam

Simply boil sloes with the addition of sugar in one to one ratio. They taste delicious, and the best way to preserve this fruit is for longer.

How to Make Sloes Gin?

You can’t eat raw sloes due to their sharp taste, so you can make sloe gin by following this recipe.

How to Make Sloes Gin
  • To make sloe gin, you will need 1l Gin, 450 g of sloes, and 220 g caster sugar.
  • Add sloes in water to rinse thoroughly and prick the skin using a sharp object.
  • Keep them in a jar and put sugar and gin into it.
  • Tightly seal the jar and shake it well.
  • Keep the jar in a dark but cool place to get the ruby color of the drink.
  • Leave it for eight to ten weeks but remember to invert the jar after every two days.
  • After a certain period, strain the sloe gin and taste it if there is a need to add more sugar.
When to Pick Damsons? - Growing Tips For Better Taste
The damson is a small, dark purple fruit related to the plum. It has a tart, acidic flavor often used in preserves and jams. The skin is dark purple or black, and the flesh is tart and tangy.


Is It too soon to pick sloes in September?

The suitable months to pick sloe are October and November, which means September is too soon to get the ripened berries. You will not like the taste of unripened sloes.

Do Sloes Ripen Off The Tree?

Once picked earlier, sloe berries ripen off the tree, gradually improving their taste. Picking them before frost will require a further process in the freezer, after which the sloe will ripen fully.

Final Thoughts

We hope you now have a clear idea of when to pick sloes to enjoy their best taste. Even if you do not like its taste, you can make jams, jellies, and gin to enjoy it in different ways.