Imagine, if you will, a small country in the northern hemisphere, in the ‘fruit belt’ temperate zone between north of the Mediterranean and Scotland. Here, ideal combinations of rainfall, soil, sunshine, and cold Winters (but not too frosty in Spring) provide optimum conditions for growing fruit on trees.
In Damsonia, the people have for many centuries cultivated the small tart plum with such a passion that the entire countryside is covered with damson trees in miles of hedgerows, and in vast orchards. Odd it is to find a country cottage without a dozen trees in the garden, or one of the thousands of community orchards and allotments without more than half its area devoted to the fruit.
It is the custom for the parents of Summer and Autumn newborns to be presented with the equivalent weight of their baby in damsons, which are used to make jam and fruit cheese to be eaten at the celebration of the infant’s first birthday. Thus begins a lifelong attachment to the abundant plum.
Damsonia is a nation of small artisan producers and shopkeepers, with no large food stores to be seen. The rural and urban economies are dominated by growers, bakers, preservers, brewers, distillers, publicans and restaurateurs all concentrating on making and serving damson products. Not a damson is wasted from the millions of tonnes grown each year – except for late harvest squishy ones that the young people of the land pelt each other with in the numerous annual damson festivals, wearing protective clothing and goggles as their clothes and skins get stained.
Everywhere the folk wear blue-black or khaki clothing (think WW2, RAF and army), dyed from the skins of damsons. What damson tree wood from pruning, clearing and storm damage that isn’t turned by woodcarvers into vessels for the kitchen or polished artefacts for the home or gallery goes into woodburning stoves for winter heating in the home, or to fuel local power stations (the smoke is internally recycled, and does not pollute the air). Billions of damson stones are used as aggregate in the construction industry, and as maraca filling by musicians singing good health to the fruit trees in every settlement at Wassailing time in the New Year.
The government of Damsonia joined with other neighbouring countries in the 1970s to form the PU – the Pomological Union, for the benefit of mutual trading in and enjoyment of the life-sustaining fruit. Continuing membership of the PU was ratified by an overwhelming majority of Damsonians in an election last month. The future looks bright purple indeed.