Monday, 28 November 2005

Sloes are nutritious and delicious, discuss.

Sloes, the small round small round purple / black fruit of the Blackthorn fruit towards the end of the summer and are best left to harvest after the first frost. As the name suggests Blackthorn bushes are covered in vicious thorns, some an inch or more in length this in combination with the cold and wet weather that is inevitably in attendance at the time of harvest needs to be balanced against any nutritional value the fruit may posses. After an hour of picking it is not unusual for the picker to discover that his fingers are in some considerable pain that appears to be going right to the bone. Whether this discomfort is in time offset by the nutritional value of the fruit remains to be seen, from the low mutterings heard from this picker, viz ‘it better be bloody worth it’ that this is a question of some relevance at the time of picking.

Moving briefly to the question of taste; ‘delicious’ is of course a subjective term, it is well known that some people, sick twisted devious types, believe Artichokes to be delicious whereas sane well balanced individuals, such as myself do not. However, I believe there are certain flavours that transcend subjectivity to the point where they can be objectively agreed upon as being gross. Sloes being a perfect example of this; upon the slightest contact the bitterness sucks all the moisture from the mouth and attacks the central nervous system so as to produce a shiver down the spine that can be seen from some 23 meters away. Worst of all, the taster is left with distinct impression that they are now in possession of furry teeth, a sensation that is not swift to leave.

It might appear from the initial analysis that there would be no point spending time in the cold and wet battling deadly thorns in order to pick fruit that tastes somewhat less fruity than a Sumo Wrestlers Armpit. However, there is reason, good reason and that reason is Booze. Oh yes, a simple concoction made of gin, sugar, Sloes and time produces a heady liquor that is allegedly worth the effort. After an hour of picking I had gathered enough Sloes for an estimated Gallon of Gin, more than enough to give some bottles as gifts and keep some for myself.

It is at this point that the discussion necessarily turns to the other possible meaning of Nutritious and Delicious. Regular readers will recognise the term as a simple comedic technique used to flag up impending disaster. For instance if I were to discuss the nutritional value of rice it would only be a matter of time before it was revealed that the bag of rice in question had burst and was currently congealing in the bottom of my rucksack with a delicious yoghurt that had burst the day before. What could possibly happen to a Sainsbury’s carrier bag half full of soft fruit? I was immediately aware of the peril the fruit of my toil was in so made it my mission to treat it with ultimate tenderness.
When I got back to my camp I placed it on the floor near my sleeping bag but nearly trod on it so had to move it out of the way of harm. When it got so bitterly cold that I had to light a fire for fear my arms would fall off as a result of the shivering I moved the bag to protect them from stewing. As I packed my rucksack last night so that I would be ready to leave with the minimum of fuss in the morning I caught myself packing the Sloes. A very bad plan seeing as all previous things that could be categorised as either nutritious or delicious that had been put in their had met a sticky end. I removed the bad of Sloes and replaced it with the rubbish bag. This way I could carry the Sloes carefully in my hand and ensure their safe passage. In my rush to leave this morning I almost left them behind but remembered them at the last minute. I had done it, picked and transported the Sloes safely – brilliant!

I had left in good time to catch the bus, this was mainly due to my already having missed the bus that I wanted, so I strolled gently down the hill admiring the view and taking stock of the weekend. It had been a bit of a rollercoaster of a couple of days, clubbing till five am on Saturday, sleeping in whilst the sleet pelted down on Sunday such a lot had happened. I’m not sure whether it was a branch or a root that tripped me but whatever it was it did it ever so well. I toppled forward and the combination of the steepness of the slope I was going down and the pack on my back conspired to tip me past my centre of gravity and’ with arms wind-milling’ on to my face. The momentum of the pack on my back being such as to send me somersaulting further down the hill. Smiling to myself I stood up only to discover that the carrier bag was now completely empty, the bag had split all along the bottom edge on contact with the ground and Sloes now covered the slope. I stopped to gather as many of the small dark round fruit as time and light allowed before stomping miserably off to the bus. It was only once I was on the bus that it occurred to me that the field in which I had fallen is mainly inhabited by sheep and rabbits. There could well be a number of small dark round objects gathered whose deliciousness and nutritional value I really do not wish to gather.

I took advantage of the light in the bus on the way to work to pick thorns out of my fingers and reflect on a successful weekend.


Strangeblueghost said...

Ah yes, sloe gin. You mix sloes, gin and sugar, and leave for a while. And after a few months the result is...OK, in fact nearly as nice as the gin you poured in.

Jayster said...

Once, while I was working as a press photographer I slung my Billingham bag full of camera kit onto my shoulder -as I Often did, in a bit of a hurry, and ready to stride off to my next asssignment - this time was different though, as I hefted the bag a little harder than usual, and instead of landing with a satisfying thud against my shoulder, it went over my other shoulder, the strap nearly strangled me, and the sudden weightin front of me overbalanced me,pitching me head over heels, throwing me in a perfect forward roll to land flat on my back. It was a throw that any self respectign judo black belt would have been proud of. - The job was at a junior school, but of course the children around me didn't find it funny, didn't laugh at all and I was able to walk away without the slightest pang of embarrasement.....I wish!

Haio said...

check the Sloe Gin entry on the English wikipedia site: the sloe berries
need a frosty night (if local weather won't comply, use friends' fridge) to
become eatable.

Even so, the pips have to be screened (hydrocyanic acid).

Hugh Sawyer said...

Hey Hajo, long time no speak.

There was a frost that lasted for three days so I guess that counts.

Haio said...

Hi Hugh,
you've well done so far! I've been following your blog daily ever since.

BTW, does your blog-page deliver any statistics about your audience (like: how many and from where)?

hajo, Berlin

Hugh Sawyer said...


The blog is all pretty basic and I'm about as technically minded as a jelly fish so no real chance of finding out who is reading this. However, I have been contacted by people from 18 different countries - not that I'm counting :)

Dave said...

I've just picked a load of half ripe sloes and am wondering if they will ripen in the tool shed before spending a day or so in the Fridge?