Can You Eat Damsons Off The Tree?

Damsons are drupaceous fruits that are closely related to plums. They are renowned for their unique ovoid egg-like shape, alongside their small size, deep black-blue color, bitter taste, and astringent nature. As is the case with most fruit, it is common to wonder whether or not damsons can be picked off their trees and eaten right off the bat. 

So, can you eat damsons off the tree? Damsons can absolutely be eaten straight off the tree. However, whether or not your taste buds are in for a treat, or at the very least an experience that is somewhat tolerable, is dependent on whether or not the damson is ripe.

But how do you know a damson is ripe? Are all damsons edible? Well, keep reading.

I’ve covered it all below! Read on to find out more. 

How Do You Know When Damsons Are Ripe?

You can identify a ripe damson by its color and texture; ripe damsons are a deep blue-black color (as opposed to a yellow-green shade), and the texture is softened as opposed to hard.

Identifying when a damson fruit is ripe is a relatively simple effort. 

However, the first recommended course of action is to ensure that what you are looking at is, in fact, a damson fruit. 

The reason is that it is easy to mistake other fruits, such as plums, bullaces, and sloe berries, for damsons. 

A straightforward enough sense check is to assess both their size and shape. 

Quite uniquely, damsons have an ovoid, i.e., egg-like shape, and in size, are capable of growth up to around 3cm in diameter. 

Once you are certain it’s a damson before you, you can move on to your evaluation of whether or not it is ripe. 

The primary attributes to look out for include the fruit’s color, size, texture, surrounding foliage, and last but not at all least, its taste! 

To set the scene, the best time to plant a damson tree is between the months of November and March. 

April is the damson tree’s flowering month, at which point the tree blossoms beautiful single white flowers.

When a damson fruit itself first pops up, it will be in an unripe state, and therefore its skin will be a yellow-green shade. 

Meanwhile, its flesh will be noticeably hard in texture. 

It is only a few months later, between the months of August and October, that amongst the tree’s usual dark green foliage and now white flowers too, the damson fruit begins to ripen and eventually winds up with a deep blue-black color and considerably softened flesh. 

Are All Damsons Edible?

From a safety perspective, all damsons are edible. That is, they are not poisonous or dangerous in any shape or form. From a flavor perspective, whether or not they are edible can only be determined on an individual level and on personal taste.

By nature, damson fruits are both bitter in taste as well as astringent in that they are known to dry out one’s mouth.

This is particularly true when they are not yet ripe. 

In this form, they are broadly considered to be intolerable and unpleasant. 

Even once they have ripened, their tart nature remains, although it does so to a much less overwhelming degree than previously. 

The general school of thought amongst everyday folk and chefs alike is that damsons are at their most agreeable, if not only agreeable when cooked. 

It’s only through the cooking process that they really come into their own and release a very welcome deep flavor rife with sweet notes. 

Plus, when cooked, the fruit is no longer astringent. 

What Do Damsons Taste Like?

The taste of a damson fruit is entirely dependent on whether they are raw or cooked. Unripe damsons are entirely sour, not to mention hard-textured. Ripe damsons are still inherently sour and acidic, where their sweet potential can only be unleashed once they’re cooked. 

Of course, to deem the taste, ‘better’ is entirely subjective. 

Some find their extreme bitterness surprising, given their high sugar content.

Fortunately, once a damson is ripe, it tastes much better, particularly if the tree had been planted in an area that garnered a good amount of direct sunlight throughout the day. 

Even prior to their being cooked, sweeteners are highly recommended!

What Is The Best Way To Eat Damsons?

In all honesty, unless you’re into tremendously sour flavors, it’s probably best not to eat damsons right off the tree. By all means, there’s no harm in doing so once or twice, simply for the experience of doing so. But for most, cooking them first is the preferred way to go. 

In fact, damson fruits have long been a sought-after autumnal ingredient in kitchens across England, if not across the globe, for centuries!

Their popularity is hardly surprising given the myriad ways in which they can be consumed. 

As A Jam

Their consumption cannot be mentioned without paying an ode to the very worthy dish that is damson jam. 

Damson jam is widely regarded as one of the most flavorsome and delicious jams in existence. 

Unlike most common jams, such as raspberry and strawberry, damson jam requires a more complex and lengthy cooking process. 

The reason is that damsons are considered to be a clingstone fruit, meaning that their inner flesh adheres very tightly to the large stone found in their center. 

Hence, separating the two before cooking can be a testing feat. 

However, even by factoring in the laborious cooking process, the results are worth it!

In A Dessert

In addition to the world of preserves, damsons make an excellent and in no way an underrated contribution to the making of many desserts. 

They’re a popular primary ingredient in cobblers, pies, tarts, and even fruity cheeses. 

As A Beverage

Beyond desserts, damson fruits can also be found deepening the flavors of beverages of all kinds. 

From tonics and wines to vodkas and gin, their use in the beverage industry seems to be ever-growing. 

All in all, cooked damsons have proven time and time, recipe and recipe, again, that they are capable of elevating the flavor profile and thus enjoyability of many a dish and drink! 

If you’re not quite ready to cook your damsons yet, worry not! The fruit can be stored in your freezer for up to six months. 

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