Praise the Myriad Imperfections: The Exquisite Flavors of Organic Heirloom Fruit, and Especially Damson Plums

Here’s the truth - heirloom fruit is often less than perfect on the surface, and sometimes, just downright ugly. The russeted skin of an old apple variety seems rough and coarse to our modern sensibilities more used to the fine polish and luster of a supermarket red delicious. Please, I implore you my fine fruit friends, look beyond the cosmetic imperfections, peel the mottled rough and russeted exterior off if it offends too much. Then savor the flavor and complexity of an apple that has been lovingly raised and reproduced by humans for hundreds if not thousands of years, all for that unique and irreplaceable taste.

Imperial Epineuse Plums

Another truth - most supermarket fruit varieties are first selected for longevity and bruise resistance. Flavor is always a third or lower priority. This year I have been deeply and profoundly enjoying the Silver Logan white peach. White peaches have a bad reputation, but this one will change your mind. It’s exquisite on the tongue, but alas, the Silver Logan is a delicate snowflake of a peach. It bruises easily, and does not look flawless to the untrained eye. Still the Silver Logan is listed in the Slow Food Ark of Taste, and beloved by those who know this variety, for the flavor is far beyond any pedestrian supermarket peach.The flesh is often mottled with delicate pink, the juice is generous, and the taste full of floral after notes.

One final sad fact: so many entire species of fruit never even make it to the market because of their short shelf life. Pineapple guavas, mulberries, fresh currants and so many more I have never tasted myself. The only way to truly taste the richness biodiversity of the world is to visit farmers on their farms, where they hoard the very best and most fleeting of flavors.

Golden Nectar Plums

Golden Nectar Plums


An Brief Elegy to the Damson Plum, the Tiny Prince of European Plums

Damson plums used to be one of the most popular plums in North America, yet few people today have ever seen one. I first tasted the little delicacies fresh two years ago when my baby trees grew their first wee fruit. I swooned with delight, and immediately planted a few more. This venerable little plum has a far longer history than it’s relatively recent appearance here in California. It is also known as the damascene and traces it’s lineage back to the ancient city of Damascus, capital of modern-day Syria. These plums were introduced into England by the Romans, where they took deep root. (from Wikipedia)

The English used the damson plums extensively for fresh eating, but also baking, preserving, wine and pies. I have also read they can be made into a paste, like membrillo (quince paste) - I’ve got to try to make that some day. The damson plum has a unique, spicy and rich flavor, combining both strong sugar and astringent notes. They are quite simply my personal favorite plum Visually, they are stunning too, with the fruit forming in dense and violet blue clusters on the tree limbs, reminiscent of concord grapes. They are a small tree in stature, and the fruits are tiny, making them all the more precious. My trees come from my favorite nursery, Trees of Antiquity, and are sold as Blue Damson plums. Further research suggests that they may be Shropshire Blue Damsons in particular.

Damson Plums

Damson Plums