DescriptionA prized ingredient in any mixed country hedge, blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is valued for the inky-black sloes it produces in Autumn. Not only does the blossom appear very early in Spring, so is an excellent food source for bees at a time when there may be few other options, but the fruit is devoured by birds in the autumn. If you want any to make sloe gin, dont hang around!
Native to much of Europe as well as Western Asia, blackthorn has long been used to make cattle-proof hedges - the thorns are much longer than those of hawthorn - but it is not recommended near horses. The foliage is used as food by many species of moth and butterfly.
The fruit has long been used to make jams, chutneys and preserves, as well as various forms of liqueur. Tart and astringent when ripe, the flavour is said to sweeten after the fruit has been exposed to the first frosts of autumn. As we seem to be experiencing milder autumns, and the birds will not be as fussy as you, these days it is best to pick as soon as ripe and then freeze for a few days - it has the same effect.
For most garden hedges, plant in a single row, spacing plants every 30cm.