Here in Shropshire we are just this minute bursting with damson blossom. We also have our own variety – the Shropshire Prune, which has been around from at least Tudor times. The damson trees along the field boundaries and lining the country lanes are also reminders, or so local legend has it, that before chemical dyes were invented, damson growing was done on an industrial scale both here and in many parts of rural England, the fruit skins used to colour wool and leather. I’ve certainly seen old photos on a pub wall in nearby ‘Damson Valley’ of the fruit being harvested by the cartload and driven off to the local station. And whether for dyeing or not, there was certainly once a great demand for damsons in the commercial jam-making industry. These days people aren’t so keen on them, and each year the old tree at the allotment hangs in unpicked fruit. It is seems a great pity. Damsons are delicious, and they also make for excellent damson gin or vodka, so spreading their cheer through the darkest months. Chin-chin!
Is it really spring?
Here at Sheinton Street we are wondering if spring has come. Certainly it looks like spring. We have had daffodils, crocus and cherry blossom, and now the crab apple tree is blooming. But this is not spring as we know it. For one thing the winds have been icy, and unrelenting day after day. For another we completely missed out on April showers, and when they finally came on Saturday night, they came all at once and pounded away what blossom was left on the damson tree. I’ll be surprised if the Shropshire Prune has any fruit this year. Out in the very wet garden on Sunday morning the tulips looked positively shivery. Dishevelled too.
Definitely brrrr all round. There’s an old English saying that advises, ‘Ne’er cast a clout till May is out,’ and I can tell you there will be no clout casting in this house – probably not till July. Time to stoke up the wood burning stove, and see how the baked spuds are cooking.
Happy May, Everyone, Whatever Your Season