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The damson or damson plum (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia, or sometimes Prunus insititia) is an edible drupaceous fruit, a subspecies of the plum tree. Sometimes called the Damask plum, damsons are commonly used in the preparation of jams and jellies. The plum spirit slivovitz is made from fermented damson fruit.
The name damson derives from the Latin prunum damascenum, "plum of Damascus". Damsons were first cultivated in antiquity in the area around the ancient city of Damascus, capital of modern-day Syria, and were introduced into England by the Romans. Remnants of damsons are often found during archaeological digs of ancient Roman camps across England, and ancient writings describe the use of damson skins in the manufacture of purple dye. Prugne damaschine figure in the long list of comestibles enjoyed by the Milanese given by Bonvesin de la Riva in his Marvels of Milan (1288).
The damson was introduced into the American colonies by English settlers before the American Revolution and are regarded as thriving better in the eastern United States than other European plum varieties.
The damson (fruit) is identified by its oval shape (though slightly pointed at one end), smooth-textured yellow-green flesh, and skin from dark blue to indigo. It is similar to the bullace, also classified as Prunus domestica, which is a smaller, round plum with purple (or yellow) skin. Other types of Prunus domestica are also similar, and can have purple (or yellow or red) skin.
The tree blossoms with small, white flowers in early April in the Northern hemisphere and fruit is harvested in late August or early September.
The skin of the damson can be heavily acidic, rendering the fruit unpalatable to some for eating out of hand. Because of this acidic, tart flavor, damsons are commercially grown for preparation in jellies and jams. A range of varieties of damson are available, with some such as 'Merryweather' and 'President Plum' being more appropriate for eating when ripe straight from the tree while varieties such as 'Farleigh' benefit from cooking. They can also be pickled and thus preserved at home. The Luxembourg speciality quetschentaart is a fruit pie made with damsons.
Damson gin is made like sloe gin, although less sugar is necessary as the damsons are sweeter than sloes. Damsons are used to make slivovitz, a distilled plum spirit made in Slavic countries. Damson wine can also be produced.
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- M. H. Porcher "Sorting ''Prunus'' names, in "Multilingual multiscript plant names database, University of Melbourne. Plantnames.unimelb.edu.au. Retrieved on 2012-01-01.
- John Dickie, Delizia! The epic history of Italians and their food. New York, 2008; p. 37 ISBN 0-7432-7807-0.
- D. G. Hessayon (1991) The fruit expert. Expert Books. ISBN 0-903505-31-2. Retrieved on 2012-01-01.
- "Quetschentaart", Delhaize Food. (French) Retrieved 2 December 2011.