It is coming towards the end of the period when it is safe to prune plants that are susceptible to silver leaf. There are number of fruit trees that are prone to this potentially fatal and untreatable fungal disease, most notably plum and cherry. The silver leaf fungus releases most of its infectious spores between September and May during damp or wet weather, so pruning in the summer during a dry spell is recommended. Furthermore, during the summer months the trees produce a gum in the plant tissues which helps prevent the spread of silver leaf fungal threads. Any spores that enter and germinate are unlikely to go on to cause silver leaf symptoms. Continue reading
The plum trees are in blossom. The delicate white flowers emerge before the leaves, but their appearance is fleeting. Ten days and they are gone. For the keen wild forager, now is the time to scour the local hedgerows and woodlands for the plum’s early flowering cousins, the damson, bullace and sloe. Their white blossom is equally ephemeral but at this time of year these wild and semi-wild plums are easy to spot in the hedgerows. Make a mental note of their location and return in the late summer to harvest the delicious fruit. Continue reading
What a difference a week makes. We went back to the orchard on the Shropshire/Herefordshire border [see Damson Surprise] and the damsons had ripened nicely and were now perfect for picking. We filled another crate which we took to the Houghton Project where the damsons were washed and frozen ready for jam-making.
Walking round the orchard we were intrigued as to why the owner had planted so many damson trees. We counted over a dozen. Damsons have always been a popular culinary fruit and in the past had been much in demand by the jam industry in that area, but perhaps a clue lies with another of their qualities. Continue reading
For the hedgerow forager finding a damson tree dripping with ripe fruit is like winning the lottery. A close cousin of the more domesticated plum, the inky blue fruits of the damson often grow so profusely that the tree’s branches hang low with the weight. Much smaller in size than the average plum, damsons are fiddly to stone but they reward with a deep intense flavour when cooked: the reason they are so loved by jam makers. There are a few remaining commercial orchards in the UK, but today damson trees are mainly found in people’s back gardens or wild in hedgerows and woodlands.
So imagine our delight when we were contacted out of the blue and offered the opportunity to pick damsons from an orchard on the border of Herefordshire and Shropshire. Continue reading
Strange but true, it never seems to rain when we are working in the orchards. Our secret to defying the rain god? The presence of Laurence, the project manager.
Last Friday was no exception. Despite dire warnings of downpours over Herefordshire, the rain clouds made a detour and skirted round the soft fruit orchards at the Houghton project where we were picking Victoria plums. Continue reading
Name a plum, any plum. The chances are you will say Victoria. It’s by far and away the best known variety of English plum. But there are lots of other delicious English plums, both culinary and dessert, which never make it on to our supermarket shelves and deserve to be equally popular.
Orchard Origins visited an orchard near Pershore in Worcestershire to pick some less well-known local varieties and to find out more about the history of the plum orchards that this area was once so famous for.