What’s a damson?

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Damson plums are oval-shaped with dark purple skin and are commonly used to make jams and the alcoholic drink slivovitz. They were first grown in Damascus and introduced to Britain by the Romans, and later brought to America by British colonists. The skin was historically used to make dyes.

A damson plum is the fruit of the damson tree, native to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, but also grown in Western Europe, Great Britain, and the United States. These plums are usually oval in shape and have dark purple skin. In the past, their skins were used to make dyes. Today they are most commonly used to make jams and a liqueur known as slivovitz.

The plum tree takes its name from the city of Damascus – in present-day Syria – where it was first grown many centuries ago. From here, the cultivation of wild plum spread in ancient Rome. The Romans later introduced the tree to Britain, and British colonists in turn brought it to America. These trees grow to about 4.5 feet tall (4.57 m) and are generally quite disease resistant. They produce small white flowers in spring and plum in early autumn.

In general, the damson plum is oval or egg-shaped. Its skin is deep purple or dark blue in color. The flesh or inside of a damson plum is normally yellow to yellow-green.

Historical records suggest that damson plum skin was commonly used by ancient Romans to produce purple and blue dyes. These dyes could then be used to color fabrics. To this end, the Romans may have introduced the damson tree to the British Isles.

Usually, the skin of a damson plum is highly acidic. This acid gives prunes a bitter taste that many people find unpleasant. Therefore, damsons are rarely eaten as they are. They are, however, commonly used to make jams and to produce an alcoholic drink known as slivovitz.

Damson plum jam is typically made by stewing chopped plums, sugar, and water on a stovetop until thickened. Many find that the plumpness of the plums and the sweetness of the sugar make for a pleasant combination. This type of jam can be hard to find in stores across the United States, but can easily be made at home.

Another common use of damson plum is the production of slivovitz, a type of brandy popular in Central and Eastern Europe. Slivovitz is made by pressing and distilling damson plums. The distilled plum juice is then mixed with starch or sugar, fermented and left to age in wooden or steel barrels. Once aged, slivovitz usually has a subtle almond flavor. It is commonly consumed as a digestif or after-meal drink.

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