Latin Name: Prunus spinosa syn. Prunus moldavica, Prunus stepposa.
Plant Family: Rosaceae
Other Names: Blackthorn, Sloe Berry, Mother of the Wood, Wishing Thorn, Slae, Scroggs, Snag, La Mere du Bois & Wild Plum.
Description: The sloe is a deciduous shrub or small tree native to Europe, western Asia, and northwest Africa. It can reach a height of 5-7 metres; the bark is tough and black. The thorny branches bear dark green glossy leaves that are 2-5cm in length, ovate in shape with a serrated edge. The hermaphrodite, 5-petaled flowers are 1.5 cm diameter, creamy-white in colour and form clusters which appear before the leaves in early spring. The sloe berry is a drupe 10–12mm in diameter, black in colour when ripe with a blueish-purple waxy bloom.
Brief History: In 17th century Culpeper said of the sloe ‘It is serviceable in washes for sore mouth and gums, to fasten loose teeth. The juice expressed from the unripe fruit is a very good remedy for fluxes of the bowels; it may be reduced by a gentle boiling to a solid consistence, in which state it will keep the whole year round.’ The leaves were a popular tea substitute in Europe, the aroma of the leaf is said to resemble that of green tea. The unripe fruits were pickled in vinegar as a substitute for olives and the ripe fruit is famed for making sloe gin and was formerly used for making port wine. The juice of the berries, thickened and dried were the source of ‘German Acacia’ used as a gummy thickener by German apothecaries.
The sloe can be used to make wine, cordial, jams and jellies, the juice from unripe fruit can be used as an ink for cloth and is almost impossible to wash out. Dye can be obtained from the bark, leaves and fruit.
Shelf life of two years provided that goods are stored in an airtight container in ambient conditions.
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