Botanical Name: Prunus insititia – L.
Subgenus: P. subg. Prunus
Section: P. sect. Prunus
Species: P. domestica
Subspecies: P. d. subsp. insititia
Common Names: Damson,Damson plum,Prunes domestic subsp, Insititia, damascene
Habitat: Damson is native to S. W. Asia. Naturalized and often considered a native of Britain.It grows on thickets, hedges and open woods.
Damson is a deciduous tree growing to 6 m (19ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a medium rate.
It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen in October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, insects.
A type of damson once widely grown in County Armagh, Ireland, was never definitely identified but generally known as the Armagh damson; its fruit were particularly well regarded for canning. Local types of English prune such as the Gloucestershire ‘Old Pruin’, are sometimes described as damson varieties.
Although the majority of damson varieties are blue-black or purple in colour, there are at least two now-rare forms of “white damson”, both having green or yellow-green skin. The National Fruit Collection has accessions of the “White Damson (Sergeant)” and the larger “White Damson (Taylor)”, both of which may first hav
To confuse matters, the White Bullace was in the past sold in London markets under the name of “white damson”. Bullaces can usually be distinguished from damsons by their spherical shape, relatively smooth stones, and poorer flavour, and generally ripen up to a month later in the year than damsons.
Damson is an edible drupaceous fruit, a subspecies of the plum tree.
Fruit is eaten -raw or cooked. More acid than a plum but it is very acceptable raw when fully ripe, especially after being touched by frost. The fruit is about 3cm in diameter and contains one large seed. Seed – raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter – see the notes on toxicity below.
The skin of the damson can have a very tart flavour, particularly when unripe (the term “damson” is often used to describe red wines with rich yet acidic plummy flavours). The fruit is therefore most often used for cooking, and is commercially grown for preparation in jam and other fruit preserves. Some varieties of damson, however, such as “Merryweather”, are sweet enough to eat directly from the tree, and most are palatable raw if allowed to fully ripen. They can also be pickled, canned, or otherwise preserved. The Luxembourg speciality quetschentaart is a fruit pie made with insititia plums.
Because damson stones may be difficult and time-consuming to separate from the flesh, preserves, such as jam or fruit butter, are often made from whole fruit. Most cooks then remove the stones, but others, either in order not to lose any of the pulp or because they believe the flavour is better, leave the stones in the final product. A limited number of damson stones left in jam is supposed to impart a subtle almond flavour, though as with all plums damson stones contain the cyagenic glycoside amygdalin, a toxin.
Damson gin is made in a similar manner to sloe gin, although less sugar is necessary as the damsons are sweeter than sloes. Insititia varieties similar to damsons are used to make slivovitz, a distilled plum spirit made in Slavic countries. Damson wine was once common in England: a 19th-century reference said that “good damson wine is, perhaps, the nearest approach to good port that we have in England. No currant wine can equal it. The fruit is widely used for culinary purposes, particularly in fruit preserves and jams.
The bark of the root and branches is febrifuge and considerably styptic. An infusion of the flowers has been used as a mild purgative for children. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.
Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.