Damson: plum full of taste!
The damson, known as quetsche in French, is a variety of plum with a blueish purple skin and golden yellow and red flesh. It differs from other types of plums in that it lends itself especially well to being frozen and is therefore often referred to as dark-red plum when processed or baked. Cultivated widely in Eastern France (in Alsace, Franche-Comté and Lorraine), it is also grown in Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, as well as in England (mainly Shropshire), Canada and the US, where it is called the blue plum. Its origins are a subject of discord among botanists: some believe it is a hybrid of Prunus domestica, originating in Europe and the Caucasus, while others affirm it is descended from the Prunus insititia, known as the Damascus plum, which was brought back by French crusading soldiers from the Middle-East after a disastrous campaign. This has given rise to a rather charming French expression “pour des prunes”, which is literally “just for plums”, which means going to a lot of trouble for not much. This notwithstanding, the damson is very useful in all sorts of cooking. With its firm flesh, its deep violet scent and its subtle sweet and sour balance, it can be appreciated as easily in a salad as in a tart or as filling in a spice cake or doughnut. It goes well with game and meat and can even find its exotic origins in a Moroccan tajine. It marks the changeover from summer to autumn and plum brandy, known as quetsche in France or variants of slivovice in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, allows us to taste its strong and exhilarating essence. But beware, a few shots will do before you start to see sugar plum fairies!