Sloes by the canals and rivers

Did you know?

Every hour enough plastic to fill two bin bags is washed into our oceans from canals and rivers.

Our ecologists work hard to make sure our waterways are diverse and provide the perfect habitats for a huge range of plants year-round. Visit us this month to take advantage of the sloes growing along our canals. You'll be able to make some budget-friendly gifts in time for Christmas.

Sloes by the canal Sloes by the canal

Sloes grow on blackthorn trees, which are a very common sight along our network of canals and rivers. Resembling small damson fruits, they are usually turned into sloe gin, a delicious combination of gin, sugar and sloes.

It's now the perfect time to pick sloes and make some homemade Christmas gifts.


There’s much debate as to the best time to pick sloes. Many people say that you should wait until the first frost. However, that may prove too late this year as the warmer summer has encouraged them to ripen early.

The main thing to remember when picking them is to make sure that they are ripe (if they are bullet-hard then find some plumper sloes or return at a later date).

Don’t be tempted to eat them straight from the bush – they are incredibly sour.

Try not to prick yourself on the plant’s thorns. It hurts.


You can use your sloes straight away or store them in the fridge straight away. However, if you pop them in the freezer for a few days their skins will burst and save you a lot of time later on.

Sloe gin


  • If you've already frozen your sloes then place them in a jar until they come up just over a third of the way. If you haven't frozen your sloes you will need to prick each one with a pin a few times before adding to your jar.
  • Add your sugar to the jar. How much depends on how much of a sweet tooth you have but somewhere between 150g and 300g for each litre of gin that you have should do the trick.
  • Top the jar up with gin. It doesn't have to be the most expensive gin but try not to go for the cheapest either. You will taste the difference.
  • Store the jar on its side in a dark place turning it every other day to make sure the sugar dissolves and the gin soaks up the berry juice.
  • After three months it should be good to drink. When you are ready strain it into sterilised bottles and enjoy responsibly.

Last date edited: 22 August 2018