DAMSONS (Prunus domestica) and SLOES (Prunus spinosa)
In antiquity, Damsons were cultivated around Damascus in Syria, and were brought
to the UK by the Romans. Apparently, they used the Damson skins to create a purple
dye, as well as presumably eating them.
Damsons seem to be rather rare these days, probably because they are mainly used
for jams as they can be slightly “tart”. Although, in many parts of the Country,
you may find them growing wild in old hedgerows, Damson trees are available from
specialist nurseries, grafted onto semi-dwarfing root stock making it easier to reach
the fruit. On our allotments, there are Damson trees some 8 m high, growing on their
own roots, making harvesting the fruit very difficult!!
As the fruits are really a miniature type of Plum, see Plum for general cultivation
Varieties of damsons.
Produces large, round, juicy acidic fruits from September for culinary use. Self-fertile.
The best choice for me.
Produces small, oblong acidic fruits with good flavour from September for culinary
use. Quite prolific and self-fertile.
Pixy. This rootstock produces a tree with a final height of about 3 m height, making
it suitable for a small garden.
St. Julien “A”. This rootstock produces a tree which can grow up to 4 or 5 m high.
Storage of Damsons.
They will store fresh for a week or two in the fridge crispator. For longer storage,
they make an excellent stronger flavoured plum type jam and can be bottled. Alternatively,
store them in alcohol as in Wine and Liqueur.
SLOES. Also known as “Blackthorn”, this is a Prunus species which is native to Europe.
It hardly seems worth growing them in your garden or allotment, as they are relatively
common out in the countryside, particularly in hedgerows. It is probably easiest
to spot the location of Sloe trees in the Spring during March and April, when you
should see masses of small white flowers on leafless trees or bushes with vicious
spines. You could also use the sloe trees to form a barrier hedge with vicious spines
and the fruit as an added bonus.
Sloes can be used for making Sloe Gin, a Country wine classic. See Wine and Liqueur.