Category Archives: Damson Snippets

Bite-sized gems of damson related information

Calling Damson Cooks, Both Amateur and Pro: A Damson Competition for You

The ‘Damson Days 2014’ Damson Competition

A damson competition rounds off ‘Damson Days 2014’.  The competition is open to both amateur (home) cooks and professionals.

damsons galore
What Could You Do With These Damsons?

The theme is ‘anything damson‘, which means that you can enter anything from a traditional damson recipe to an avant garde damson recipe. And also, your entry could be your favourite damson jam or jelly or gin. Or vodka. Or your favourite damson chutney or curd or mincemeat. Or damson chocolate truffles; they work well too.

Damson liver parfait with damson brioche? That spectacular dish won the prize in our previous damson competition. What you enter really is down to your imagination.

A Stash of Just-Picked Damsons: Ripe With Possibilities.
A Stash of Just-Picked Damsons: Ripe With Possibilities.

What You Need to do to Take Part

Bring your damson competition entry to the Ludlow Local Produce market on Thursday, 9th October 2014 by 10am. Label your entry with:

  • your name and contact details
  • the category you are entering (amateur or pro)
  • the name of your dish
  • the ingredients in your dish

The competition entries will be judged between 10am and 12 noon. The winners of both categories will be announced, and the prizes awarded, at 12 noon.

You’d be mad not to take part because there’s no point in hiding your damson light under a bushel.

Entry is free.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • the competition is open to amateur and pro cooks/chefs
  • the theme is ‘damson anything’, which literally means what it says
  • bring your entry to the Ludlow Local Produce Market on Thursday 9th of October by 10am
  • winners are announced on the day at 12 noon
  • prizes are awarded shortly after 12 noon


Turn Your Labour of Love into Something Damson Delicious.
Turn Your Labour of Love into Something Damson Delicious.

Damsons Products that Won Gold Stars in the 2014 Great Taste Awards

Bravo, bravo, BRAVO! The food and drink producers who won gold stars in the Guild of Fine Food Great Taste Awards 2014  have just been announced. And sweet and savoury food and drink products made with damsons have won several of these precious gold stars.

There’s an entry from Ireland, namely, WIld Food Mary’s Damson Vodka.

There’s a damson jam with the stones left in (a minimally processed jam, perhaps, and one with the hint of almond from the damson stone … I’m guessing).

There’s a ‘Damson Port Liqueur’, a new category to me that sounds deliciously rich.

There’s a damson vinegar, one of the finest fruit vinegars you can make and taste, and one that that can easily square up to the finest balsamics from Modena.

Then there’s ‘Damson Daize’, a non-alcoholic drink, now an award-winning drink, made by one of our very own Shropshire-based damsonistas, Tish Dockerty, from Appleteme. Well done, Tish! You’ve done the Shropshire Prune damson proud.

Here is a list of the damson winners, along with a link to their website (if available).

Three Star Winners

Damson & Sloe Gin Ice Cream, made by Just Rachel Quality Desserts

Damson Port Liqueur, made by Raisthorpe Manor Fine Food Ltd

Two Star Winners

Damson Vodka, made by Wild Food Mary

One Star Winners

Damson Gin, made by Alder Tree Ltd

Damson Cheese, made by Just Williams

‘Damson Daize’, made by Appleteme

Sweet Damson Vinegar, made by Stratta

Damson Jam (includes fruit stones), made by Rosebud Preserves

Damson Extra Jam, made by Cottage Delight

Damson Fruit Cheese, made by The Sweetmeat Company

Congratulations everyone. Let’s hope your awards bring in excellent sales and well-deserved recognition.

How to Identify “Bent Banana Disease” / “Pocket Plum Disease” in Damsons

What is “Pocket Plum” / “Bent Banana Disease”?

There’s a fungal disease that infects damsons that’s known by various names, including:

  • “bent banana disease”
  • “plum pocket”
  • “bladder plums”

Its Latin name is Taphrina pruni (“taphre” is Greek for trench or ditch).

This disease is fatal to damson fruits and so can seriously reduce your damson yield. It can be summed up in two words: grotesque deformity.

In ten years of growing damsons I’ve come across the occasional pocket plum-blighted damson. But this year,  2014, has been the worst ever.

In my patch on the Herefordshire-Shropshire border, every damson tree in my orchard and in the hedges in my meadow was infected to some extent. I estimate I’ve lost maybe as much as a fifth of my crop. That’s a lot of damsons to lose.

Where to Learn More About Pocket Plum

The web is a rich source of information on this disease. So, if you’d like to learn about the epidemiology, aetiology, symptoms and treatment of pocket plum you could always check out these sites:

When I spotted the arrival of pocket plum this year I took some photos to record how the natural history of this disease evolves.

What Does Pocket Plum Look Like?

Most commonly, the signs of pocket plum are seen on the fruitlets.

The first sign of infection is small spots on the fruitlet.

Blisters of damson pocket plum disease
The first sign that something is amiss: the small, apparently innocuous spots of pocket plum on damson fruitlets.

Next, these spots develop into small white blisters.

Blister of pocket plum on damson fruitlets
Pocket plum blisters have appeared.

Now, the infamous deformity caused by pocket plum is also becoming apparent. Also, notice how neighbouring damsons are healthy and normal in size, shape and colour.

pocket plum disease and blisters
The small blister-like spots of pocket plum in association with deformity of the fruit.

Next, a white spore layer forms on the surface of the fruitlet. When you squeeze the flesh of the damson it feels unappetisingly spongy.

Photo showing the spore layer on a damson infected with pocket plum.
The white spore layer of pocket plum on an infected damson fruitlet.

One of the features of pocket plum disease is that it there is no stone inside the fruit: it’s just a cavity.

Another feature is that the diseased fruitlet grows at an alarming rate. It’s as if the division stage of the cell cycle is out of control. Elongation is the name of the game.

Photo of a damson severely elongated due to pocket plum disease.
A pocket plum-infected damson that is several times its normal size.

Next, the diseased fruitlet starts to turn brown. Folds and fissures also deepen.

Photo of deformity of pocket plum disease on a damson
Brown patches start to appear on the infected fruit.

Here you can see how much bigger the infected damson is compared with a typical healthy damson. Notice, too, how flat it is; inside is just a hollow with no nutritious fruit flesh.

Photo of a damson infected with pocket plum that is curved like a banana.
The infected damson curls into the shape of a small banana. Hence the name “bent banana disease”.

The brown plaques become more extensive.

Photo showing the dried, brown deformity of bent banana disease on a damson.
The diseased damson gradually turns brown and then grey and dries out.

Eventually, this diseased damson will fall off the tree.

What Should You do if Your Damson Tree Develops Pocket Plum?

A  summary of the sources mentioned earlier suggest three actions you should take if you spot pocket plum on your damsons:

1. Removed diseased fruits promptly and burn them.

2. Cut off any diseased twigs and burn them.

3. Check for diseased decaying matter under the tree and burn it.

You could spray with Bordeaux mixture in early Spring, but this is not deemed effective.

The key message is not to panic if you spot pocket plum on your damson tree.

Your tree won’t die and it will continue to produce fruit.

Have you ever spotted pocket plum on your damsons? If so, what effect did have on your crop and how did you deal with it?

Please leave a comment below.