The na­ture of things

Damsons, sloes and gages

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by

WE’RE well into the plum­mi­est sea­son. Yel­low orbs have formed on the gages we planted, be­com­ing riper and more translu­cent with each pass­ing day. There won’t be enough for jam to­day, or even to­mor­row, but Bun­yard’s peer­less rec­om­men­da­tion (in The Epi­cure’s Com­pan­ion, 1937) made them a nec­es­sary ad­di­tion to the gar­den. ‘For some rea­son Na­ture has de­creed that the best flavoured shall be mainly those of green or yel­low hue, and… to my taste the Trans­par­ent gage ex­cels it,’ he ad­vised. ‘This is a fruit of dis­tinc­tion; its pale am­ber, al­most translu­cent, just washed with crim­son, shows that for once beauty and good­ness can be com­bined, in the veg­etable world at least.’

Early Trans­par­ent (top right) kicks off the sea­son in Au­gust; the Lates ripen by mid Septem­ber. The sea­son winds up in early Oc­to­ber with the Golden Trans­par­ent, ‘a flavour un­equalled, and suf­fi­cient juice for re­fresh­ment, but not enough for a bath which some plums de­cide to be­stow’.

Like gages and plums, the in­digo-pur­ple dam­son (bot­tom) emerged from hy­brids of black­thorn and cherry plum. Many were planted near houses and farm­steads, but nu­mer­ous wild trees oc­cur in hedgerows and fruit spe­cial­ists of­fer rec­om­mended cul­ti­vars. Their jams, jel­lies and prunes give an un­matched taste of au­tumn. Sour sloes (top left) are tra­di­tion­ally picked af­ter the first frost and best turned into sloe gin. KBH

Illustration by Bill Dono­hoe

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.