Damsons have an old-world feel about them, the trees were often planted and harvested in grand old gardens or along country hedgerows. The fruit is very similar to plums, but without the redness of skin or pinkness of flesh. Damsons have a more distinct, subtle flavour and a golden interiour. While on the tree the skin appears dusky grey in colour, but a quick rub brings up their dark purple sheen.
One suggestion for their unusual name is that they may have originally been cultivated in Damascus and then traveled towards our shores with the expansion of the Roman Empire.
Damsons, like most fruit that ripens in Autumn, ripen all at once, so you can find yourself having a delicious bounty, not knowing what to do with them all. Making jam or chutney is always a fail safe and makes the delectable taste last all year round.
There are three recipes included here that use damsons in different ways. You can just as easily substitute plums gram for gram if you wish to use them instead.
The sunken damson cake lasts very well in an airtight container for a few days but make sure that it is completely cool before sealing it into the tin.
For the Eton mess you can make the meringues a day or two in advance and break them up just before serving. There are also quite a few, very good, shop bought meringues available for a much quicker result.
I really enjoy the mixture of damson and rosewater in this dessert. You can add a little more rosewater to the whipped cream if you wish to strengthen the taste. Make sure the rose petals you use are from edible petals that do not have pesticides on them. The final recipe is harnessing and combining some wonderful tastes of late Autumn, the damsons combined with blackberry, star anise and cinnamon make for a very warming, comforting treat.