Botanical name: Prunus spinosa
Common name: Blackthorn, Sloe
Physical appearance: A tough, woody shrub that has small leaves and vicious thorns. In late Summer, it produces berries also know as "sloe", which can look like a miniature plum.
Best places to find: Field and woodland borders.
Edible parts:Just the berries. Not good eating as they are extremely astringent, however, they can be used for flavourings.
Time of year: Late August to November.
Other uses : Making sloe gin. Pick enough sloes to half-fill a bottle. Freeze the sloes overnight to "blet" them, then pack into a sterilised botte. Add 125g caster sugar and top up with gin. Leave in a dark place for 3 months, agitating it now and again. The gin is now ready to drink. Produces a very unique flavoured drink. The alcohol soaked berries also make for a fantastic treat when dipped in chocolate, almost like a chocolate covered raisin.
Point of interest : Due to its tough, thorny nature, Blackthhorn has been used traditionally for cattle rearing in the capacity of stock fencing.
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and RHS