Vibrant blue, acid sweet, the September or late August damson is a gem of a hedgerow find, a sapphire in the leaves for foragers and a stalwart ingredient for jam makers (high pectin content). The Romans brought these treasures over from Syria and the English settlers introduced them into the American colonies and while the majority of trees are concentrated in Cumbria and Kent, Cornwall has its very own black-skinned variety: the kea plum aka Cornish damson.
From the Blue Violet to Merryweather, Early Rivers to Bradley’s King, there are thought to be 10 different varieties of damson (wild and cultivated) recorded in The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Farm, Kent. With a little alchemy from sugar, water and alcohol, this versatile variety of plum can be transformed into gin, cheese, chutney, jam and more rather than left browning to burst in the hedgerows for birds.
It appears however, that the damson is a potential damson in distress. With trees only producing the fruit for around 30 years and many farmers and producers now importing plums, few trees are being re-planted. Demand, appreciation and love for the purple plum is low and set to get lower. Once you’ve spied your first damson set on a gnarled branch hidden in a hedgerow however, it’s a love affair set to blossom at the end of each summer. Never to be forgotten.
To celebrate love for one of our most delicious heritage fruits, I have combined it with sugar and stirred in some double cream and plain yoghurt courtesy of Stevie Parle’s damson ice cream recipe in The Telegraph. In a box in freezing temperatures, it is stirred every half hour for four hours. During that time the damson yields her fruity depths among the gentle creamy cushions of yoghurt and cream, a more intense lover than her common cousin, the plum. Eat alone. Unadulterated.
Other related websites you may be interested in:
For Cornish artisanal, seasonal, top quality preserves and chutneys, especially Damsons In Distress (chutney made with kea plums: Cornish damsons) go to Crellow.
For more recipes, try: