Damson - Prunus domestica
Family - Rosaceae
Also known as - Damask Plum
The Damson is usually to be found as a bush or small tree with a dark bark and dark purple leaves. White flowers in April - May, they self pollinate ripening to round purple fruits with a yellowish green flesh in August. Once ripe Damsons should be harvested as they rapidly become over ripe on the bush quickly becoming rotten and unpalatable. Damson skin is relatively acidic, making the fruit appear unpalatable for eating directly. Because of this tart flavour, Damsons are usually grown for making into jellies and jams. Several varieties of Damson are available, with some such as "Merryweather" being more appropriate for eating straight from the tree whilst varieties such as "Farleigh" benefit from cooking. The term "Damson" is often used to describe red wines with acidic, plummy flavors. Damsons can be put to a variety of uses - from jams, jellies and chutneys to wine, Damson Gin and Damson Beer.
It is said that Damsons originally came from the area around Damascus in Syria, hence the name which allegedly derives from the Latin Prunum damascunum or "Plum of Damascus" and that they were introduced into England by the Romans where Damson skins where used in the manufacture of purple dye. However Many of the wild plum varieties colloquially referred to as "Damsons" seen growing wild may be hybrids (cross pollinations) of the native Blackthorn and Cherry Plum, Bullace or other cultivars. This might explain the sudden appearance of a "Damson" plant where nothing was growing before, as it did in Brickfields Park, very close to our Bullace. They can be grown by planting the stones (fallen fruit, birds) although they may not grow as true Damsons, however mature plants also send out suckers relatively easily which can aid propagation. They don't like the shade which restricts their growth and fruiting potential, as is the case with our specimens which fruit relatively rarely, a bit of a pity as our Damson jam is very popular!
Bullace or Green Damson, is a close relative of the Damson. When seen together they are quite distinctive, Damson is rounder and dark purple, ripening in August without a marked colour change, whereas Bullace is green or yellow/green, has a distinctive "crease" down the side and ripens in September to early October gradually darkening but only getting to a purple colour when almost fully rotten.
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