I always look forward to late summer and early autumn, as it’s time to look for wild fruits, berries, nuts and mushrooms! One of my favourite fruits to find is that of the damson (Prunus domestica), but they’re not as common in Essex as they once were due to the widening of roads and the lack of wild spaces. But, if you travel out of the way a little bit, or take a walk around the older parts of the county in the months of August and September, then you’re likely to find a few damsons within the hedgerow.
Although the plum would seem like an easy fruit to identify, it seems to be the one fruit which causes most confusion, especially for those who are new to wild foods.
There are several reasons for this confusion. The wild plum is very often referred to as the damson ‘plum of Damascus’ or orchard plum (these are cultivars of Prunus insititia), and occasionally known as the bullace (Prunus insititia). The colour of each species may vary, which leads to some country folk giving the same species different names. For me though, I call any wild purple plum a damson. I will cover the botanical differences at some point in the future though.
Damsons often look like a large 'Sloe' with a white bloom.
Sometimes the bloom is not there.
This year I thought it would be nice to involve my little boy (Orin), whom recently turned three years old, but he already knows the name of many plants and trees and knows all of the poisonous species that are often encountered. So we took a bowl, and went off looking for his favourites (blackberries) and some damsons too.
On the way to the local site Orin fell asleep, so he wasn’t in the best mood when he woke up and it had started to rain, but as you can see from the sequence of photos, he soon cheered up once he found some damsons to forage for!!
And as you can see, he was most happy with his haul at the end of the trip, although he ate at least half along the way!
Catch you on the trail