The fantastic weather recently has meant we’ve been able to go out and start foraging early. There’s not an awful lot above ground level in spring, but the Blackthorn (or Sloe) bush stands out proudly as it’s covered in masses of white flowers before anything else in the hedgerow.
Soon enough the hawthorn will come into blossom (the leaves and leaf buds can be eaten now – an old English tradition called “bread and cheese”) with its almost identical looking flowers, but at this time of year you can be reasonably confident that what you see is the blackthorn. Scrunching a few of the flowers in your hand gives a deep, fruity but unusual smell; something which captures all the notes of the sloe but doesn’t immediately remind you of it.
This year is certainly turning into a fun foraging one as Mia – still too young to be embarrassed by what other people might think of us raiding the hedgerow – happily wanders around with us spotting whatever she recognises as being potentially edible (and plenty that she doesn’t – “Daddy, what’s this?” is a question I have to answer 50 times a day at the moment). So far this season that’s included hawthorn leaves / buds, dandelions, wild garlic, nettles…I’m sure there’ll be much more coming along soon.
Blackthorn blossom can be made into a diuretic tea by simply steeping the flowers or leaves (dried or otherwise) in boiling water for a couple of minutes. The flowers are edible raw and can be used in salads for visual impact, or you may decide to adventure further and make a blackthorn blossom wine…