Monday, May 24, 2010

Blackthorn?


Is there anyone out there that could possibly confirm that this is a blackthorn thicket? I'm 75% sure that it is - the leaves have a serrated edge and the branches have sharp spikes all over them; the berries look like sloe, being blue, but they've shrivelled somewhat being well past their prime. The shots were taken about a month ago by a friend's vineyard, just outside Otane here in Hawke's Bay - apologies for their quality. Any help in identifying them would be greatly appreciated.





Just in case you're wondering why I'm so interested, well, if they are indeed Blackthorn, next year I'll have a source of sloe to make sloe gin. I'm in the process of trying to find an indgenous fruit which I could use to make a NZ equivalent - any suggestions?


Linky goodness:
  • Want to learn more about foraging? Pop along to Wild Picnic, Johanna Knox's blog about the fruit and plants to be found in New Zealand, principally in Wellington, her home town, that are fit to eat and use.
  • Free Food NZ, a site "dedicated to the widespread planting and mapping of free food bearing plants within public space". It's an amazing resource for those interested in learning more about foraging, sustainability, plant identification and more.

17 comments:

CAL design NZ said...

Hi Nigel, From what I can see it looks like the shrub you are referring to is Barberry in particular Berberis glaucocarpa. Here is a page from the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture regarding the shrub: http://www.rnzih.org.nz/pages/berberisglaucocarpa.htm . I would love to know if the berries are edible as I know where there is a few shrubs up the Hastings to Taihape Road. According to Wikipedia Barrberries are edible but I'm not to sure what variety. My Herb book has information about Berberis vulgaris and it says that the bark and berries can be used as a hepatic, laxative, and refrigerant. The juice from the berries is also said to strengthen the gums and it is high in vitamin C. Hope this has helped. Also great post about the Prickly pears. I cycled along marine parade the other day and saw quite a few with nice red fruit down by Napier Boys on the beach front. I might give your recipe a try. Regards Chris.

Nigel Olsen said...

Chris, I think you've hit the nail on the head - the pictures on your link look exactly like the thicket. I also had a reader from the UK send me shots of her blackthorn hedge & the serration on the leaves is a lot finer than these. The berries are also round, as opposed to the almost tear-drop shape these ones have.

Don't forget to take thick gloves if you're picking the cactus fruit. Try a basic sorbet recipe too - far less fiddly & quite delicious, too. Cheers for your help, Chris :)

Nigel Olsen said...

Found an American berry recipe book with a section on barberries at Google books (p.19): http://tiny.cc/dnd0j

lusach said...

I was thinking one of the barberries too, but I haven't seen one with purple berries before.

Plants for a Future have it listed as edible, and suitable for drying to make Indian raisins. There seems to be an overlap between B. glaucocarpa and asiatica, aristata etc.

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Berberis+asiatica

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Berberis+aristata

cheers,
lusach

Nigel Olsen said...

Thanks, Lusach. By the way, your hawthorn berry post was handy - there was (& still is) a swag of them growing wild, all over the orchard. I've made jam, liqueur & some vinegar. Yours has become a very handy & popular site for me!

lusach said...

Thanks Nigel :-) Lovely to hear you've been making hawthorn goodies! I want to get out and make some more now that we've had some decent frosts (do you have those up your way?). I'd love to hear how you get on with the barberries too.

David said...

Hedges made from these plants are all over the Waikato. They must have been thee thing to plant decades ago, because I only see them be pulled out, never planted.

In summary are these berries edible?

Nigel Olsen said...

Hi David - yeah, they're edible but best suited for use with other beries in jams, conserves, jellies and so on. Very tart taste, by all accounts. Your blog's a mine of healthy info, by the way!

Anonymous said...

Looks like a blackthorn variety.
I suspect this longish fruit is rather tingy. Round ones tend to be sweeter. They taste better after a frostbite.

Is there any chance of getting a cutting?

I've just come back from europe and enjoyed a jar of these berries on the way back. It would be good to grow a bush or two.

Nigel Olsen said...

Anon - That's what I heard too about rosehips, that they're better picked after a frost. As for growing them, a friend of mine told me they're actually classed as a noxious weed, like privet! Having said that, blackthorn is quite uncommon around here.

Nigel Olsen said...

Aargh, I meant barberry, but blackthorn too.

philfy. said...

im just about to make some sloe gin from this very same purple barberry, if i never post again assume ive died!

if anyone knows where to find real blackthorn id appreciate knowing.

also OP, id suggest miro or tawa berries altho the flavour is very different, theres already a kawakawa liquer(titoki)i plan to infuse horopito leaves sometime too, feel free to steal my idea but gimme credit! :P

Anonymous said...

I would love a cutting or few as well... We are trying to grow some foragable hedging - and berry bearing bushes like these are perfect!

Sloe gin is one of the best winter drinks I know about, not sure if these berries would also work out but it could be worth trying.

Nigel Olsen said...

Anon - I've seen blackthorn hedges on farmland in the south island. I'd quite like to see how yours turns out.

Nigel Olsen said...

Philfy - I'm actually making bitters using those very plants!

Anonymous said...

hey, Philfy here, the sloe gin was... ok, i call it sloe, but those berries are not sloe/blackthorn and have very different flavours and properties, they are a variety of brarberry and while not poisonous in heavy dosages they can cause some ...side effects.
it didnt taste especially nice, mixed with lemonade to kill the astringency a bit it was drinkable, but not amazing or particularly moreish.
so on the whole, i would say dont use them for the sloe gin recipe, tho somebody with more knowledge and skill and perseverance than i, might do a better job of it.

keen to know how you did with the bitters nigel, next time i go bush il have to look for miro and/or tawa and try to make a cordial of some description.

Nigel Olsen said...

Philfy - I tried some sloe gin when I was in London last year - lovely stuff!