Definitions

damson-plum

Damson

[dam-zuhn, -suhn]

The damson or damson plum (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia, or sometimes Prunus insititia) is an edible drupaceous fruit, a subspecies of the plum tree. It is also sometimes known as the Damask Plum (but is slightly different from the Bullace).

The name damson derives from the Latin prunum damascenum, "plum of Damascus". Damsons were first cultivated in antiquity in the area around the ancient city of Damascus, capital of modern-day Syria, and were introduced into England by the Romans. This latter point has been proven, as remnants of damsons are often found during archaeological digs of ancient Roman camps across England, and ancient writings describe the use of damson skins in the manufacture of purple dye. The damson was introduced into the American colonies by English settlers before the American Revolution and are regarded as thriving better in the eastern United States than other European plum varieties.

The damson is identified by its small, oval shape (though slightly pointed at one end), smooth-textured yellow-green flesh, and skin from dark blue to indigo. The tree blossoms with small, white flowers in early April and fruit is harvested in late August or early September.

The skin of the damson is heavily acidic, rendering the fruit unpalatable to some for eating out of hand (for which the "President Plum" variety is better suited). Because of this acidic, tart flavour, damsons are commercially grown for preparation in jellies and jams. A range of varieties of damson are available, with some such as 'Merryweather' being more appropriate for eating when ripe straight from the tree while varieties such as 'Farleigh' benefit from cooking.

The term damson is often used to describe red wines with acidic, plummy flavors. Damson wine is also a favorite among some people. Damson gin is made like sloe gin, although less sugar is necessary as the damsons are sweeter than sloes. Damson is occasionally used to make slivovitz.

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