It’s the time of year for picking sloes, our Irish grape or plum. Traditionally used to flavour gin, we like to use them to give a little tartness and colour to apple jelly, which can otherwise be too sweet. Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn, which is one of the first of the hedgerow bushes to flower in spring. The small blue black plum like fruits are easily spotted but the sharp thorns will extract a price.
It was a grand afternoon to wander the ditches and collect these, with a selection of apples from the garden: eaters, cookers and crabs. The Irish word for sloe is airne, said to be in the name Killarney, as in the wood or church of the sloes. But others dispute that and think ‘arney’ here may be some local saint name.