► The sloe, so precious in winter
In the countryside, the blackthorn is called “the black thorn”, “the white thorn” being the hawthorn. So the black thorn – Prunus spinosa – serves as a natural fence in a large number of fields, all over France, bordering sunken lanes and country roads. A multitude of white flowers bloom in April. The very thorny shrub then becomes insignificant, until the berries form, in autumn, turning the hedges blue.
If you want a defensive hedge, in any terrain, at any exposure, here is the perfect shrub: it prohibits any attempt at penetration, even by dogs and cats!
→ CHRONICLE. Bright and amazing berries
It is necessary to wait for the first frosts, mid-November or even December, so that the berries are less astringent. Navy blue, slightly blooming with white, they shed – a little or a lot, depending on the plants and the weather! – their acridness, when they become dull. Turn them into liquor. In jam or compote, they are very special: we love it or we hate it, to accompany game, duck and goat cheese. Watch out for the long, fearsome thorns when picking the berries.
I entrust you with a recipe that I make every year… or almost!
Sloes, like olives
Scald the sloes, let cool. Prepare a brine with 1/10 coarse salt for 9/10 lukewarm water. Put the sloes in a jar, cover with brine, add herbs: oregano, thyme, savory, bay leaf, etc. Close. Stir regularly. To be consumed after a month, with a good country pâté!
► The bramble and its blackberries
They are everywhere, brambles, in nature! Who has never stained themselves with blackberries, at the end of summer? To crunch on the spot, or to transform into jam, these small berries are the queens of wild pickings. Learned gardeners have long been tackling the hybridization of these very thorny brambles, to produce, over the decades, plants that are often thornless and have the largest fruits.
If you have a very, very large garden, let the scurrying wild brambles, the ones you often fight with when weeding your beds, come in the background, in the fence. Otherwise, here are some tame ones, to plant without delay.
Planting in the rules of the art
In sun or light shade, choose precisely the place where the chosen plant will climb, because it can be invasive. The support must be solid and large enough: tree trunk, solid pitons and wires on a wall, trellis, gazebo, trellis, arches… At the foot, make a hole 40 cm by 40 cm. Bring some compost. Position the plant. Close, tamp well, water, mulch. It is especially the second year of planting that the branches become robust.
Trellis them as you go, and tie them securely to their support. Water the months following planting, then during particularly dry summers. Renew the mulch every year, at the end of spring. If your soil is poor, add compost in late fall. A simple cleaning pruning, in autumn, is enough. Eliminate the branches that have given fruit, and trellis the new branches. These plants are never sick, and are not prey to pests… apart from birds! Vigorous, they bloom nicely in May, pinkish white, attracting bees and butterflies. This is followed by red fruits becoming shiny black, and it is time to pick them. The picking lasts for a month, which is very practical. And don’t let that stop you from going and staining your hands in the countryside, to harvest the delicious savages!
A few varieties, to stagger harvests
From the end of July to the beginning of October, by opting for two or three different brambles, you can concoct desserts and jams for sure! Choose them also according to the place you can give them, some being very… talkative!
♦ “Black Satin”, of medium vigor, has no thorns. Its large elongated fruits are picked in August, until the beginning of September.
♦ “Darrow”, moderately thorny, produces large black, elongated, very fragrant fruits from the end of July to mid-August. Trellis the long branches by bending them, for a more beautiful flowering, therefore a better production, and cut them to 1.50 m in October.
♦ “Jumbo” is a variety that produces large, particularly juicy fruits. The branches, without thorns, are about 3 m high. The picking, in August, is quick thanks to the size of the blackberries, and the jams are exquisite, because they are very fragrant!
♦ “Loch Ness” has evergreen, thornless foliage that can exceed 3 m in height. The large, shiny, very firm fruits with a delicate, sweet flavor are harvested from mid-July to the end of August. I prefer them in jelly or jam.
♦ “Thornfree” needs a lot of space. Its long branches without thorns can reach 4 m in height and cover a pergola. They are covered, from mid-August to the end of September, with huge, juicy and tasty black, conical fruits.
♦ “Thornless evergreen” bears fruit in September and October. Firm and of medium size, they must be picked when fully ripe to lose their acidity. Its exuberant lianas are capable of measuring up to 10 m in height. Without thorns, with beautiful cut, semi-evergreen foliage, this plant can decorate a facade.
♦ “Triple Crown” gives giant fruits, very abundant, juicy, sweet, of very good taste quality, perfect for becoming jelly or jam. Picking is done in August and September, on a 2 m high thornless plant
In the kitchen
The fruits – wild or cultivated – are transformed into compotes and jams, and make good pies. Sometimes I find them a bit bland, so I like to pair them with bananas, apples, raspberries… For example, I regularly make this jam, which “sets” quickly, thanks to the pectin contained in the apples. I choose the latter based on their flavor, which should be slightly acidic, and their firm texture. Often, I opt for apples that have not fully matured.
Blackberry and green apple jam
♦ 1 kg blackberries
♦ 6 green apples
♦ 1 kg of granulated sugar. Quickly wash the blackberries under running water. Peel the apples and cut them into very thin slices. Place the blackberries, apples and sugar in a large bowl. Two hours later, pour this mixture into the jam bowl and cook for 30 minutes, skim off. Put in jars. Wait an hour before closing.