What is the best time of year and conditions required to pick Sloes, in the UK, for gin and jellies?
The best time of year in the UK to go foraging for sloes is from mid-October to early-November, with the best time being after the first frost in this time frame. Allowing a frost will help the berries be less tough - their skins should burst slightly. Some people say don't worry about the frost and just stick them in the fridge or freezer - but from experience they're always tastiest the natural way. Some people say they're less bitter after a frost as well.
It's year on year specific and some years the birds will get to them before the frost, sometimes you'll be hunting for them through leaves, sometimes the leaves will all be gone and it's easy picking. Sometimes the summers weather will mean a good / bad year for sloes as well.
For jellies it's often best to use the gin soaked berries from the year before.