This is the year of the sloe. Blackthorn thickets are literally bubbling with fruit. Blue, black jewels glittering amongst the yellowing leaves. So plentiful this year they seem to hang in bunches like grapes. But how deceiving looks can be, put one in your mouth and you’ll certainly never forget it. Imagine, this small round beauty, modestly blushing blue, unexpectedly seems to expand as your teeth pierce it’s flesh. You’re slow to comprehend the mixture of cotton wool, blotting paper and lemon juice which has just exploded into your head. First the dryness, all moisture is sucked from your mouth. Then a woolly roughness. And then an astringency no lemon can prepare you for. All your fruity expectations have been confounded. And although the initial awfulness wears off, you’re left for hours with the horrible remembrance. Your taste buds are saturated with the bitterness. Your teeth feel dry for hours. Years ago my brothers and I spent a memorable afternoon trying to eat sloes without showing a trace of a grimace. Laughing at each other till we wept, I’m not sure we ever managed it but I do remember the terrible headache I went to bed with that evening. So, having learnt my lesson all those years ago, I’m happy just to devour them with my eyes now.