Saturday, 18 April 2009

Damson Day and Almond Ice Cream

P4180018 Today was Damson Day in the Lyth valley. We found out about the day earlier in the week and thought it would be fun to go along. Admittedly, I was a little unsure as to why Damson Day was being held in April, surely it should be when the fruit is harvested in late summer? My neighbour then pointed out that it was to celebrate the blossom on the trees.

In years gone by, people used to gather in the Lyth Valley each spring to see the blanket of white blossom in valley from the damson orchards. In recent years, Damson Day has been held by the Westmorland Damson Association to help promote the resurrection of the damson orchards and raise awareness of the small deep purple fruit, which resembles a small dark plum. Damsons are commonly used to make all sorts of jams, cheeses, jellies, gins, syrups and wines. They are also used in meat dishes, especially alongside game, duck and pork. But one of the best things about them is that the trees are extremely hardy and survive the strong cumbrian winds without a problem!

P4180015 We set out this morning to the farm which hosts Damson Day, expecting a small affair, only to find it was packed with people! A small farm, with it’s buildings and associated fields, was filled with stalls selling all sorts of damson produce, other locally produced goods, various crafts stalls and demonstrations including spinning, rope making, basket making and you could even make your own besom broom (like a witch’s broomstick!).

P4180003 The only food and drink stalls were: a local brewery, a soup and sandwich stall organised by the local school and beef stew stall. All of which looked wonderful! We opted for sandwich and cake, with the sandwich filling being local cheese and damson chutney, it was delicious. It was also refreshing to only have good quality, wholesome food available.

P4180011 After finding a quiet spot on which to sit down and munch our sandwiches, I found a solitary seat in the marquee for the cookery demonstration. This was a total surprise. The demonstration was about black pudding and scrambled eggs! Black pudding is something I’ve always avoided because I don’t like the idea P4180009of it, but, after being told about the ingredients (onion, herbs, spices, barley, salt, etc), the history of it and the nutritional qualities I plucked-up the courage to try some. It’s not something I’ll be eating all the time, but it was not as bad as I thought it would be!  


P4180022Desperate to escape the crowds, we set-off down the narrow lanes to explore the surrounding area and the damson orchards. The blossom really is blissfully beautiful, especially against the spindly damson trees.

(I also found some wild garlic ready for Garlic Day tomorrow!)


P4180012Although there were no damsons for sale (wrong time of year - I’ll have to wait until later in the summer for those) I did buy some damson syrup. As soon as we got home I set about making almond ice cream for after supper. We had this drizzled with a little bit of the syrup. A perfect end to a really special day.

Almond Ice cream


1 pint of double cream

250ml semi-skimmed milk

1 tsp of vanilla extract

6 egg yolks

40 gr caster sugar

2 tsp of almond extract



  1. P4180049 Put the cream, milk and vanilla in a heavy based saucepan and warm gently.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks and the sugar together. When the cream is hot, but just below the boil, add this to the eggs, whisking continuously. Then, using a spatula return all of the mixture to the pan and continue to heat.
  3. Stir the mixture until it begins to thicken. However, you only want it to just coat the back of a spoon.
  4. Once it has reached this point, tip the mixture into a clean bowl and place this bowl in a sink of cold water which reaches about half-way up the bowl.
  5. P4180050 Leave the bowl in the sink for about 30 mins, then transfer it to the fridge to finish cooling completely (about another hour).
  6. Add the almond extract and stir well. Tip the mixture into the ice cream maker.


  1. You should have tried the damson beer. Its so lovely - have very fond memories of it. Must be time for me to visit the area again soon -its been too long.

  2. What a beautiful spring day based on your pictures. It sounds like a wonderful informative time. I'm with you on black pudding, but I have to say that the strong garlicky taste makes it definitely acceptable.

    The almond ice cream sounds most refreshing and I look forward to trying it. I am guessing that semi-skimmed is the equivalent to our 2% - do you know about how much milk fat it contains?

  3. Goodshoeday - Damson beer sounds good. My partner thought he saw some, but when we went back to look we couldn't find it. I thought he'd imagined it! Perhaps not!

    oysterculture - 2% is correct! You can also make it with whole milk, not sure of the percentage, but definitely higher! The bitter-sweetness of the almonds goes really well the tangy damsons, a bit like a cherry-almond combination!

  4. They used to make damson beer at the Masons Arms at Cartmel Fell - not anymore but the same people still appear to produce it along with other stuff - see and check under other products.
    Can't believe you've never had black pudding til now - its wonderful :)

  5. Almond ice cream sounds heavenly! I'm not sure I've ever had damsons, sounds interesting.

  6. Sounds like a wonderful day. We went went to our fave wild garlic place today to find it all cornered off. We couldn' get anywhere near it.

    Your almond icecream sounds delicious.

  7. goodshoeday - I'll have to have a look at that website! Thanks for the tip.

    5 star foodie - if you ever come across damsons, you must try them (cooked!)!

    Jules - Oh no! I'll keep my fingers crossed that you find another spot.

  8. What fun. And now I am really curious about damsons!

  9. It sounds like you had such a delightful day, and your ice cream recipe sounds lovely!


I'd love to know any comments you might have.