Friday, 14 October 2011

Sloe, Sloe, Quince, Quince, Sloe

After the very successful Picknik #3, in the lovely churchyard of St Mary’s in Swaythling, Gary (the vicar) asked if we would like to come and pick Quinces from the Vicarage garden. My only previous experience of these very traditional fruits was a jar of ancient quince jelly I found in the kitchen cupboard. It was made by my mum about ten years ago but my daughter would eat it with a spoon given half a chance.

A Ripe Quince On The Vicarage Tree
I wondered if there was any connection between the name of this fruit and the word quintessential but my learned friend Roy informs me that this word is derived from the fifth element – Earth, Water, Fire and Air being the first four. Of course, we know a little bit more about science these days but it is always good to bone up on your alchemical knowledge. 
A Quintet of Quintessential Quinces
I tried typing “turning quinces into gold” into a search engine and this turned up that the fragrant fruit was highly regarded by the Greeks. It was probably the golden apple that Paris gave to Aphrodite as a symbol of love. However, it goes on to describe their taste as astringent and gritty; I’m not quite sure what the romantic implications of that might be and I have no idea what Aphrodite did with her quince.
Cook Before Eating
Another traditional hedgerow berry that is currently available is the Sloe. Sloes are the blue, black fruit of the Blackthorn bush/tree, very common in hedges and very plentiful this year. Many people like to pick these bloomy boys to make Sloe Gin, in preparation for the Christmas and long winter nights. I have decided to attempt making Sloe wine this year, although if we have enough left over, I can think of no better excuse for buying a bottle of gin.
Sloes in September
Sloes are too dry and sour to eat off the bush (good for a dare though as my daughter will testify), but they taste lovely and plumy when preserved.  You can add flavour with orange zest, cloves, cinnamon or almond essence. Normally you pick them after the first frost as this helps the process. Alternatively, you can sling them in the freezer to cheat the seasons – especially as the winter seems a bit late this year.

Ripe Sloes in October


  1. mmmmm Sloe Jelly on scones with double cream to cut through the sharpness, heaven!

    Linked back from the blog Alan and did a little feedback ;)

  2. Hi Pat
    I swear that I could smell that when I read it...
    Can you send us the recipe for our Community website please?
    Alan aka the Urbane Forager

  3. Hi Alan,

    Do you know of anywhere else in Southampton that you can scrump for quince please?

  4. Lozza, the ones pictured above are Japanese/ornamental Quinces. Bushes can be found in gardens and parks. True Quince grows on a large tree, like Apples and you probably need to find someone who has one in their garden but does not use the fruit.
    Last year, a "Quince Pimp" visited our Apple Day you can see him & his wares on the third film clip down ;-)