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Sugar Plum Day

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads"

~ A Visit from Saint Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore, 1823

December 18th marks the 1892 premiere of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker ballet, beloved for its Christmas theme and Land of Sweets music and dances, including the Sugar Plum Fairy dance! ​Damson plums generally refer to plums native to Great Britain, which are both sweet and tart and lend themselves well to jams, baking, and the distillation of spirits! During the 18th century the word "plum" (as a nod to the sweet and juicy fruit itself) became a word denoting anything pleasing, desirable, delectable, or rich. "Plummy" meaning "full of plums" was even used to describe rich, mellow voices. However, having a "mouthful of sugar plums" meant sweet words that may have been insincere. The "sugar plums" so famously described in Clement Clarke Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" poem as visions "dancing" in children's heads, referred to a comfit-like candy popular in the 19th century. These were made by pouring liquid sugar over a seed (usually a cardamom or caraway seed) or almond, allowing it to harden, and repeating the process. These sugar plums contained no plums nor any fruit at all, retaining only the shape of their plummy namesake! 💜 🍬 🩰

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.  


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. 

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