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Plums and Damsons

Find out more about plums and damsons

Plums And Damsons

fruits | grow your own | education

Growing plums and damsons

Plum species are found throughout the Northern hemisphere with native populations in the Middle East, North America, China and Japan. In the UK plum varieties have originated from the European plum prunus domestica which originates from Southern Europe and Western Asia. Damsons are derived from prunus institua also originating in Southern Europe.

Many countries have developed their own plum cultivars which are adapted to grow in those particular regions. The UK is no exception. Here we have bred many plum varieties to provide fruit between late July and September, with most varieties ripening during August. Though Victoria is by far the most popular variety there is a great selection from the sweetest of Gages, through dual purpose varieties, such as Victoria, to culinary plums such as Yellow Egg. By dual purpose we mean large plums that can be eaten raw or used for cooking.

Damson trees have been around in the UK for centuries and can be regarded as native in many parts. Originally damsons came from around Damascus, Syria hence the name. The Crusaders are said to have brought back damson stones to try in England. There are not so many Damson varieties, but the fruits are not as versatile usually ripening in September being sharp in flavour and best used for cooking or jam making. Hardy trees they are often seen around the edges of Plum orchards as windbreaks.

Though plum growing occurs mostly in the south and east of the UK certain areas became well known for their plums or damsons. A very well known plum producing area is the Vale of Evesham where large swathes of the area were covered by plum orchards in the 19th century dominated by the Egg plums. Only remnants survive to this day. The Tamar valley and the Clyde valley are other well known plum growing areas. Westmoreland, now part of Cumbria, became famous for its Damsons.

Growing Plums

Plum and damson trees

The most commonly available plums in fruit and veg shops are Victoria and Marjories Seedling. If you do not live near a plum growing area the best idea may be to grow a few varieties yourself. Here are a few ideas:

Early Prolific - one of the earliest plums picked late July, of good flavour also good for cooking and preserving.

Czar named to celebrate the visit of the Czar of Russia in 1883. A deep purple medium sized round plum. Good eaten raw or cooked. Ripens early August.

Opal bred in Sweden. A good alternative to Victoria, being more suited to northern Britain. Good dual purpose plum.

Blue Tit a cross between a plum and a gage. Skin deep blue with very nice flavoured flesh.

Swan one of a number of Plum varieties bred by Rivers Nursery in Bedfordshire and named after bird species. A large plum purple skin of good flavour. Best early / mid August.

Cambridge Gage a green gage, round green fruits of rich flavour. When people ask for a Greengage this is mostly the variety they mean.

Warwickshire Drooper produces medium/large yellow plums speckled with red into September. Yellow flesh of good flavour.

Yellow Egg a culinary plum, perhaps the most well known in the UK. Large yellow egg shaped plums. Used much for processing in the past.

When choosing plum trees bear in mind that they do flower earlier than other fruit trees. Colder weather can affect the flowers and young fruit and mean less pollination because of less bees working. Choose a sheltered site for good success. Though plum trees are mostly grown in southern Britain the trees can be successful in most parts of the UK with careful choice and local knowledge.

A number of plum tree varieties have the advantage of being self fertile. This can be of help if space is limited. They will usually have improved fruiting if they have a pollination partner nearby.

This article was produced for by Walcot Organic Nursery: Growers of a wide selection of organic fruit trees - apples, plums, pears, cherries, quinces, etc. Available bare rooted and delivered or collected between late November and March when dormant. Reserve your trees anytime of the year. Secure online ordering. Detailed paper catalogue available. Helpful advice available.

Article Published: 09:58, 17th Aug 2010

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