What is a Damson?

Damsons are edible, oval shaped plums distinguished by their rich indigo blue color. Typical to the plum family, damson are also drupaceous fruits identified with their hard seed covering. It has a pulpy flesh which is generally yellow in color.
Occasionally people also associate the term ‘Damask Plum’ to these fruits that are said to have originated from Damascus and Syria. The sweet, sour taste of damsons makes them perfect to be used in jams and jellies. In the fermented state, damson plums are transformed to make the plum spirit known as slivovitz.

Scientific name of Damson

Damson plums are also referred by the scientific term, Prunus Domestica or Prunus Insititia.

History of Damsons

The history of damsons traces its origin to the regions of Damascus and Syria. In fact the name ‘damson’ has been inspired from the Latin word ‘prunum damascenum’ meaning ‘plum of Damascus’. Over the years, the Romans brought damsons to England and hence introduced the delicious fruit to the country.

America was introduced to damsons by the Enlish settlers belonging to the era of American Revolution.

Damson Varieties

There are many types of damsons. While majority of the damson plums such as President Plum and Merryweather are eaten as delicious fruits, the Farleigh variety tastes best when cooked. Some people even prefer to prepare pickles from these plums.

Let us take a closer look at each variety.

Damson Merryweather

Damson merryweather plums are extensively used for culinary purposes. This small plum is recognized by the blue-black color of its outer skin. Its flesh has a contrast yellow color. It is not necessary to subject the fruit tree to regular pruning. This fruit grows best in fertile soil.

President Plum

The President Plum is bigger in size and oval in shape. It has a blue-black outer skin which is also somewhat reddish in color. Similar to other varieties, its flesh is fine textured yellow. President plum tastes best in its raw state when picked directly from the tree. The sweet flavor of these fruits is devoured by many.

Damson Farleigh

This variety appears to have a rich blue-black color. The Farleigh tree is a very tough tree that can even withstand extreme cold and wet climates unlike other orchard fruit trees. Damson Farleigh plums are significant for their culinary usage. It has a very strong and sweet flavor.

Damson Langley Bullace

This type of damson plums can be spotted by their blue black skin color. Its flesh is firm and green. Similarly like the Farleigh plums, damson Langley Bullace plums serve many culinary purposes. These plums are excellent for making fruit jams.

Shropshire Prune Damson

The Shropshire Prune Damson tastes great after cooking. This small purple colored fruit has an astringent flavor. The taste of Shropshire Prune damsons is bound to linger in your mind, once subjected to your taste buds.

Nutrient Composition of Damsons

Damson plums are rich in vitamins, proteins and fiber. It also contains minerals like potassium and phosphorus.

Enlisted below is the nutritional value of damson plums. The information highlights the nutritional value in gm/ mg.

  • Vitamin C: 9.5 mg
  • Protein: 0.70 gm
  • Water: 70%
  • Potassium: 157 mg
  • Fiber: 1.4 gm
  • Phosphorus: 16 mg

Where do Damsons Grow

Damsons are grown in many parts of the world.

But the fruit is native to the United Kingdom. As such Britain produces a high yield of these fruits annually. However the Shropshire Prune variety of damsons is known to be grown in Westmoreland. Damson plums are also grown in Western Europe and the United States.

Growing Damsons

Damson images
Picture 1 – Damson
Source – willisorchards.com

The information given below provides a clear idea of vital conditions that are necessary for the growth of damsons.


You are recommended to plant damson trees in an area that receives full sun. Sunlight is extremely essential for the growth of these plants.


Damson plants grow best in well drained soil. Otherwise you will find that the damson tree can pretty much tolerate any kind of soil. However it is very important for the soil to be well drained.

Planting Time

The most preferred time for planting the bare roots in soil is the time period between October and November. On the other hand, for the ones supplied in pots the best planting period falls between March and October.


When it comes to planting damson tree plants, the first and foremost step is to prepare the ground. This is done best by adding a good fertilizer to the soil. Please note that adding manure to the soil should be avoided at all costs since manure will damage the delicate roots.

The hole dug for the purpose of planting the damson tree plant has to be large and wide, thereby providing ample space for the roots to spread out firmly in the soil. However you are recommended to avoid planting the tree too deep as this could altogether cover the point of union between the scion and rootstock.

If you intend to grow the tree upright in a standing position, a firm wooden stake will act as an ideal support to the tree plant. Pick a wooden stake that is as tall as the plant stem. Usually a minimum height of 30 cm is to be preferred. The plant stem is tied to the wooden stake after being planted into the soil.

Pruning Damson Trees

You are recommended to stick to the following instructions while pruning damson trees.

These trees when fully grown attain a height that is about 20 feet. The tree has pretty white damson blossoms that bloom in April and later yield into purple plums.

  • It is important get rid of any kind of diseased, dead or damaged branches on the tree. As such you are recommended to check the tree on a regular basis and discard such branches if any. The diseased branches can be easily identified due to the wound-like marks and blotches that they bear on the bark. A branch that will give a hollow feel to the touch will always turn out to be a dead branch.
  • You can make use of lopping shears to discard the dead and diseased branches of the tree. Always cut at the point where the branch intersects with the main tree trunk. Remember to clean the lopping shear or any of your pruning tools before using it again.
    • All those interior branches that have become an obstruction for the growth of other branches should also be cut or removed. There are ample chances that allowing such branches to grow will result in the breakage of either one of the branches. You are also recommended to weed out those miniature branches that do not have the capacity to bear the weight of the fruit.
    • Downward growing branches must be removed too, as early as possible. Likewise any branches that have grown in an upward angle and are at 70 or 90 degree angle to the ground have to be trimmed off s well.
    • It is best to make the interior portion of the canopy as sparse as possible. This allows ample light and air inside it making it easier to circulate.  It also reduces the risk of the damsons acquiring any kind of diseases.

Harvesting Period

Damsons are generally harvested in the time period between September and October. However if you are thinking of preserving the fruit then it is recommended to harvest damsons slightly earlier than this period.


Uses of Damson

  • Damsons have been widely used to make jellies and jams all over the world.
  • Damson jam has been a big hit for foodies ever since it was first prepared.
  • It is also used in the preparation of certain wines; especially red wine.
  • Damson gin has become a popular favorite among people in many parts of the world.
  • Slivovitz is basically a plum spirit that is prepared using fermented damsons.
  • In the olden days the skin of the damson fruit was used to make dye; especially purple dye.

Damson Plum Recipes

damson Jam picture
Picture 2 – Damson Jam
Source – locallygrown.net

A variety of mouth watering recipes are associated with the delicate damson plums. The strong flavor of damsons has ruled the food world for ages. Some of these world famous recipes cater to the items mentioned below.

Damson Cheese

This delicious traditional recipe can be enjoyed both as a jam as well as a condiment for any kind of cold meat.

Damson Plum Pie

The damson plum pie is as incredibly delicious as it looks!

Damson Plum Preserves

These tart plums taste excellent when transformed into jams and other damson preserves.

Damson Jelly

Apart from being eaten with bread toast, yummy damson jelly is a great compliment to roasted meat too!

Damson slump

The smart and simple recipe can be prepared in less than twenty minutes. Go ahead and devour the tongue tickling damson slumps!

Damson Cobbler

The damson cobbler recipe is perfect for a mid week dessert.

Damson Tart

The acidic, tart flavor of damson plums makes them ideal to be used in the preparation of damson tart.

Damson Chutney

This one of kind chutney is great with your favorite snack foods like sausages, jacket potatoes, crunchy potato chips etc.

Damson Vodka

The famous damson vodka recipe is amazingly easy and quick.

Damson Sauce

This catchy sauce can be a great combination with lamb steaks and roasted duck legs.

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