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Dec 18

Sugar Plum Day

Damson
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Damsons
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"He who plants plums
Plants for his sons.
He who plants damsons
Plants for his grandsons."

~ Traditional

​December 18th marks the 1892 premiere of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker ballet (originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov ) with its distinctive Sugar Plum Fairy dance! Ironically, the term "sugar plum" originally referred to plum-less comfit style candy which shared only the shape of a damson plum with its namesake. Damson plums generally refer to species native to Great Britain, which are both sweet and tart and lend themselves well to jams, baking, and the distillation of spirits. Damson wine was once common in England: a 19th-century reference said that "good damson wine is, perhaps, the nearest approach to good port that we have in England."

December 18th marks the premiere of The Nutcracker, a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  One of the most memorable of dances and pieces of music is that of the Sugar Plum Fairy, with its distinctive use of the celeste.  

Ironically, the term "sugar plums" originally referred to plum-less comfit style candy which shared only the shape of a plum with its namesake.

 

We give the true plum its due here today with a tartan for the blue-black damson plum.   Damsons have a distinctive, somewhat astringent taste, and are widely used for culinary purposes, particularly in fruit preserves or jam. The name damson comes from Middle English damascene, ultimately from the Latin (prunum) damascenum, "plum of Damascus".  One theory is that damsons were first cultivated in in the area around the ancient city of Damascus, capital of modern-day Syria, and were introduced into England by the Romans

Damsons were said to be used in the British dye and cloth manufacturing industries in the 18th and 19th centuries and introduced into the American colonies by English settlers before the American Revolution.  A favourite of early colonists, the tree has escaped from gardens and can be found growing wild in states throughout the nation.

Damsons do take a long time to bear fruit, as the old rhyme has it:


“He who plants plums
Plants for his sons.
He who plants damsons
Plants for his grandsons.”

For a tempting list of Damson recipes including Damson Fool, click the damsons.