While Autumn is the time to harvest, cook and preserve fresh damsons in the UK, Winter sees many of the results of pickings earlier in the year come to the fore.
If you’ve made your own Damson Gin, Brandy, Vodka, Whisky or Rum by steeping the fruit in those spirits with a bit of sugar, Christmas and New Year is a favourite time to decant, drink and give as gifts. For a glass of fruity festive bubbly, mix a slug with Cava or Prosecco (or Champagne!) and call it Dam Chame.
Don’t sling the boozy damsons – there’s enjoyment yet from them!
Commercial equivalents using Damsons or Sloes make a nice Xmas or New Year prezzie. Some supermarkets do their own label versions (M&S, Aldi, Tesco), and lauded small producers include Sipsmith, Sloemotion, Nip from the Hip, Raisthorpe Manor, Foxdenton, Chilton Liqueurs, Damson Tree, Norfolk Sloe, Howards of Kent, and newcomers Tipsy Wight and Twisted Nose.
If you’re lucky to know someone who makes their own preserves, you may well get a jar of their Damson Jam before they pot up some of their marmalade for you a bit later!
The range of beers using Damsons continues to grow. Look for bottles offering 2015 brews such as Postman’s Plum Porter, Borough Damson Porter, Dark & Deadly Fortified Stout, and Hold Your Plums plum & damson sour.
Wassailing – where groups of people gather to sing, dance and drink around fruit trees to help promote their fertility – more often happens around Apple trees, but sometimes focusses on Damson trees, too, and probably at ‘Old Twelvey’ (January 17th).
February is Damson harvest time in New Zealand, and the time for Ume Matsuri – plum blossom festivals in Japan.
Winter is the best time to plant out a young Damson tree. Try your local garden centre or nursery, or see my Guide to Damsons which lists 30 nurseries/growers that will post you a bare-root or container Damson tree. Get one growing and continue the cycle, or see if there’s a local community orchard with (or needing) Damson trees that you can get involved with.
“Prunus Insy Tisha” – Cheers to the Damson!