a guide to damsons
IT WILL COME AS NO SURPRISE THAT WE ARE HUGE FANS OF DAMSONS. ONCE COMMONLY FOUND IN LOTS OF GARDENS, TODAY DAMSONS HAVE BECOME SOMEWHAT OF A RARITY. FOR THOSE OF YOU LESS WELL ACQUAINTED WITH THESE DELICIOUS ORCHARD FRUITS, WE’VE COMPILED A SHORT GUIDE:
DID YOU KNOW…?
The damson is a form of wild plum. It is small and oval in shape, with a slight point at one end, and a colour somewhere between indigo and black, with delicate soft, smoky bloom. It has a sharp, tart taste and is delicious cooked or stewed in crumbles, jams and jellies. Damson wine was once a very popular drink in England.
The word damson comes from the Latin “damascenum”, which means “plum of Damascus.” It is thought that the species originated in or near to Damascus, the capital of modern-day Syria and was introduced to Great Britain by the Romans. Remains of damsons have frequently been discovered in archaeological digs of ancient Roman camps across England. Anecdotal evidence suggests that damsons were used in the British dye and cloth manufacturing industries during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Damsons have long had medicinal uses: their high fibre content makes them great for digestion and for reducing cholesterol. The fruit’s significant levels of copper and iron help improve circulation and boost red blood cells. Damsons also contain vitamin C and magnesium, both of which benefit the nervous system and aid sleep.
Damsons were commonly grown for centuries in many British orchards and used in pies and jams until after the Second World War, when the rationing of sugar and changing tastes caused them to decline in popularity.
The damson tree has a small, white flower and blooms in early April. The fruit is harvested from late August to September. Damson trees can take a long time to bear fruit, as an old saying attests: “He who plants plums, plants for his sons. He who plants damsons, plants for his grandsons.”