Sloe Road to Mallorca

What are you least likely to pack in your carry-on bag when flying to Mallorca for a short break with friends? How about baby blackthorn bushes? Twenty of ’em!

Our friends Duncan and Kristina came over to Mallorca last weekend to remind themselves what sunshine looks like (well, they live in the UK and it’s been a bit thin in the sky of late).  When we picked them up at the airport, they were keen to point out that one of their carry-on bags needed to be transported carefully.  We thought nothing of it until we came home and said bag was opened . . . to reveal what looked like a bunch of twigs in some soil.

Our future source of sloes

Our future source of sloes


On closer inspection they still looked like a bunch of twigs in some soil (miraculously the soil hadn’t parted company from the twigs – some of which were sprouting a bit of greenery). We were none the wiser until our friends explained that these were cell-grown blackthorn bushes that would grow into a hedge, and bear sloes.

The Boss had made some sloe gin about a decade ago, when we lived in the UK, and the last of it was shared with these friends during their previous visit. At the time, he’d mentioned that he’d like to make more, but sloes were almost impossible to find here.

On the Case . . . and in the Case

Our friends set about finding a solution. They went to Buckingham Nurseries and Garden Centre ( where they explained that the plants were destined to be planted in Mallorca. The helpful member of staff provided plenty of advice and information (in the form of various leaflets that were delivered with the plants), and sold them the 20 baby blackthorn bushes that are currently residing in a bucket of water outside, ready for planting in our field over the weekend.

Our friends were slightly nervous about flying to Mallorca with the plants, but the nurseryman said it wouldn’t be a problem and offered to speak to airport staff on the phone if any problem did arise. As it happens, the case carrying the fledgling hedge passed through the airport X-ray machine without question. Maybe baby bushes aren’t such an unusual item to pack in a carry-on bag on a flight to Mallorca?

Jan Edwards©2013

7 thoughts on “Sloe Road to Mallorca

  1. When shall i pop in for sloe gin tasting Jan ? In the reverse, i took home, last October, half a dozen cactus plants, which took the French customs by surprise when they searched my car
    ouch !

    • Could be a while before we can harvest sloes, so you’d better not wait that long to pop in! There’s
      always a beer in the fridge or a bottle of wine open. Ooh, how are the cactus plants doing? Did
      French customs let you out or are you writing from a French prison cell?

  2. I think that the X-ray machine has seen a lot of plants passing. My wife’s precious orchids have travelled back and forth between Sweden and Mallorca at least a dozen times without any reaction from security at the airports!

    • You’re probably right. It’s amazing what people travel with, isn’t it? I’m amazed that orchids travel well, they always look so delicate! Does make me wonder what the security people think when they see all this stuff travelling through . . .

  3. I really hope you have success with those plants! I live at such a high altitude and with cold winters that I often am pessimistic when I try a new plant. One thing that grows really well here, though, is hops. But….I don’t think we are going to make our own beer.
    What, exactly, are sloes? Did I detect a clue in your post? Are they actually a variety of blackberry? I have heard them mentioned more than once in my reading about England but never understood what they are.
    What orchard fruits can you grow there in Mallorca? I guess I am obsessed with all the wonderful things people can grow ANYWHERE ELSE BUT HERE!
    Perhaps someday we will move to a benign climate just for that reason.
    Anyway, good luck!

    • I’m surprised to hear that you can grow hops where you are, but I think making beer is probably more
      complicated (and messy) than making sloe gin. Sloes look a bit like blueberries but are quite sour. I’ve not heard of anyone using them for cooking – only making sloe gin (a very easy process, The Boss tells me, once you’ve managed
      to extract the berries from among the rather large thorns).
      The fruits commonly grown here are citrus, pomegranates, apricots, plum, peaches, nectarines, strawberries. Raspberries don’t do well (too dry, I think), but we can find blackberries in the hedgerows. The latter don’t do well if there’s not much rain and it’s a very hot summer.
      We’re keeping our fingers crossed for the blackthorn hedges – our soil here is notoriously bad, as the land has been overgrazed by sheep.
      Thanks for your good luck wishes and for reading my blog!

  4. Pingback: Sloe, sloe, dig, dig, sloe | Living in rural Mallorca

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