It is February and the damson tree is ripe again with another bumper crop. This poor little tree outdoes itself each year, branches smothered in small tart purple plums. This year I’ve stuck to my promise not to freeze any and I’ve made damson wine, damson gin and damson cheese. I’ll share the recipes with you but first lets talk about damsons.
They are a self-fertile European plum variety that ripens late in summer. Damsons are quite vigorous growing upright trees that will reach 5m in height and will send out suckers if not grafted onto a root stock. Most damson trees that you buy will be grafted onto a root stock but if you visit an old derelict orchard you will often find un-grafted damson trees with suckers that have formed dense thickets of trunks.
Damsons are very tart to eat fresh but long been used in culinary creations. In Victorian England it was the damson, not the quince, that was preferred for making fruit cheeses. Large discs of damson cheese would be served whole as a sweet course, studded with slivered almonds and drenched in port. They would also be matured like a good cheese and kept for several years. The high sugar content and low moisture act as a preservative and I have stored discs of damson cheese successfully for over a year, wrapped in waxed paper, in a container on a cool shelf.
If you have a mature Damson tree it won’t be long before you start looking for damson recipes. Our 6-year-old tree produces over 30kg of fruit and that is a lot of jam and sauce. Here are 3 of my damson recipes for you to try. The Damson paste is particularly good as it’s made with cider and cloves and has a nifty tip to cut down on the stirring. The damson gin recipe is a very sophisticated drop and the damson wine recipe is a work in progress but is looking promising.
Click here to download the recipes. If you’ve got a favorite damson recipe I’d love to hear it.
They are a low maintenance tree, not requiring a lot of pruning or spraying to produce consistently heavy crops.