Damsons in Distress
This year, I’ve noticed more than ever a confusion amongst consumers as to the difference between a damson and a plum, especially on social media. Damsons ripen in September and as I write this post, at the end of September, we still have damsons on our trees. Even allowing for earlier harvests, claims of ripe damsons in August are often misguided. In my orchard I have plums which might be mistaken for damsons in their appearance but their flavour is sweet, whereas a damson is more astringent. One variety that also has a natural sweetness and a distinct oval shape is the Shropshire Prune. By far my favourite variety and each September I go to Shropshire to bring kilos home for preserving, to supplement fruit from trees transplanted from Worcestershire and new ones planted in our orchard 10 years ago. Interestingly, the transplanted ones have done better than the newly planted ones. If you are keen to experience damsons in England, go to Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Cumbria, Cheshire or Kent for the best.
Following a successful Marmalade event in February, I was delighted to be invited back to School House B&B at Chapel Lawn, to stay and teach damson preserves to a group of eleven women from the Women’s Institute. We had two sessions in the village hall, making jam and ice-cream. Over lunchtime we finished a chutney I had half cooked at home the previous day. Working with the best quality damsons and a group of enthusiastic women we made some fantastic jam and ice cream. The chutney was deemed ready to eat immediately despite the usual practice of leaving it for a couple of months to mature. We finished off the day with a cream tea with the damson jam spread liberally on top of the scones. I arrived home the next day with a good stock of damsons ready for making into jellies, chutney and gin in the months to come.