Two nights ago the moon was new so according to this version of the Ogham ‘tree calendar’, we’re now in the Month of the Blackthorn. You might choose to follow my ‘ogham’ tag for other posts in this series.
The ancient Celts used their Ogham alphabet for various purposes but they don’t seem to have associated a calendar with it. That use of the Ogham is a 19th century invention! I like this calendar, though. It directs attention to a different species for each lunar month. So today, let’s admire the blackthorn.
The blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is a small shrub native to Britain. It’s often found in mixed, semi-natural hedges. Blackthorn makes a good livestock barrier (keeping the animals where you want them) because it’s a dense shrub with vicious thorns.
Blackthorn is a good hedging plant also because you can lay it. Here’s a film about the traditional craft of hedgelaying. Hedges are still laid in Britain, by contractors and by conservation volunteers because properly managed hedges are both functional and beautiful.
The name ‘blackthorn’ can be confusing, since this shrub has lovely white flowers in spring. It’s the bark which is so dark that it’s almost black. So is the fruit: the sloe. Sloes were in season here until a week or two ago. I once tried to eat a sloe fresh from the hedge and believe me, you do that only once. It was the sourest fruit I’d ever tasted. But don’t be put off this wild food.
If you gathered sloes you might have made the classic liqueur sloe gin. But you won’t be drinking this year’s sloe gin this year. Keep it at least until next year. In fact, keep it for several years to enjoy it at its best. Meanwhile I suggest that you smile sweetly at anybody you know who’s been storing their sloe gin. It tastes of plums. [Edit] You might want to see my fellow blogger Finn Holding’s tale of gathering sloes and making sloe gin. When you’ve drunk all the homemade sloe gin, use the fruit that’s left in the bottle to make more treats. And don’t drive just after eating them.
You don’t have to restrict your sloe pleasure to the booze. Here are some other sloe recipes. Of course you won’t be making these for gastronomic pleasure. All your attention will be on the beautiful landscapes, the wildlife corridors and the safely enclosed livestock.