A crescendo of sweetly scented plum blossom

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A landscape of plum blossom: Ume growing in Tsuukuba-shi, Japan

I’ve been off down an internet rabbit-hole again. This time following the trail of plum blossom hydrosol. A hydrosol is a distilled floral or herbal product and apparently plum blossom essence is what ‘freshness’ smells like. So of course I wanted to try it, because at the time of reading about it I hadn’t even registered that plum blossom had a particular scent! Now, I am not sure how I ever missed it and I am considering distilling some for myself.

It all started last week on with a dog walk (doesn’t it always?) with friends when I spotted some early plum blossom breaking out on what I think is a Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’. The lone tree has been a bit hacked by the farmer and his hedge trimmer over the years, but it still manages to look beautiful at this time of year with its lovely dark bark and leaves and sparkling blossom.

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Blossom and rain on the Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’

We got to talking about best trees for wildlife gardens and the merits of different plum trees. My own garden has a mixture of greengages, damsons and a Victoria plum with some sloes on the boundary. I enjoy them all, but I would ultimately love to switch some of the damsons for a wider variety e.g. mirabelle plum, cambridge bullace. I did introduce a couple of ‘hedge’ plums (myrobalan) grown from stones on top the hillock a couple of years ago, but they were eaten by something (I am guessing muntjac). If I want to be serious about more grown-from-seed whips I am going to have to be more protective of them.

So I was looking up plum varieties when I came across an article that talked about waiting all winter for the wild plum flower harvest with its beautiful fragrance. I’ve never heard about harvesting plum flowers, so I was intrigued. First I needed to know what plum blossom smells like. ‘Fresh’, ‘floral’ etc. could mean anything.

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This blossom will hopefully become a sweet, golden globe by the summer

Unfortunately, none of the stone fruit in the garden are close to flowering yet, although the buds of the sloe are beginnning to fatten up. However, down the road there is a plum tree on the corner that is already in flower. It is an overgrown part of the hedge and produces hundreds of golden yellow spheres in August, which mostly fall unused on the path. So I’ve picked two or three flowers and brought them back home to smell properly.

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Let’s preface this experiment by stating that I don’t have a particularly sensitive nose, nor have I learnt how to distinguish ‘notes’ (I’ve never done wine tasting for instance). I just placed the flowers in a small glass and sniffed.

OK, so the smell was strong and familiar, quite fruity. I could probably make out ‘honey’ and ‘almonds’ as individual scents. After going back to the glass several times to try again the smell that dominated was an impression of ‘Juicy Fruit’ chewing gum. I am not convinced that I like it and it is very strong. So does the distilled essence smell different? I’ll need track some down before I can answer that. However, I did come across an interesting recipe for Wild plum blossom syrup and since this is supposed to have an ‘intense floral almond essence’ it becomes an altogether much more attractive idea, because I love marzipan. So I am going to try this with our damson blossom when it comes out.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Plum blossom – Yun Tao

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About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in Flowers, Food, Nature, Recipes, Trees and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to A crescendo of sweetly scented plum blossom

  1. The recipe looks good; I hope you will let us know how it turns out. One thing that has always confused me is the common name of Prunus mume, which is called “plum” in Chinese, and “Japanese flowering apricot” in English. Do you know anthing about this?

  2. Will do. Hope that damson is close enough to wild plum to taste the same. P. mume comes from China/Korea and is related to both plum and apricot. In fact, it is more closely related to the apricot. According to the RHS the fruit is sour and looks apricot-like too:
    https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/25783/i-Prunus-mume-i/Details

  3. Gillian says:

    It seems to me that subtle fragrances outdoors are quite overpowering inside the house. I can’t count the number of times I’ve brought blossom indoors only to have to remove it swiftly to stop complaints from family members about the stinky twigs!

  4. Tina says:

    Interesting post and your close-up photos are just gorgeous. I can almost smell the lovely fragrance. Is it early for your trees to blossom?

  5. Christina says:

    Fascinating read, I agree that some perfumes that I love outside in a large space are completely overpowering indoors.

  6. lyart says:

    these photographs are excellent…

  7. Julie says:

    I think its the whole process of thinking about the syrup and then making it thats just as satisfying as tasting the results, wholesome and earth connecting. Lovely post.

  8. We grow Prunus cerassifera as a hedge here and ours is also flowering early this year – unfortunately the birds get to the fruit before we do…

  9. Chloris says:

    How interesting. I have Prunus mume and it is very fragrant. You walk past and notice it. Beautiful! I have never noticed the scent of plum blossom but I will sniff it when it comes out.

  10. I do love plums, though I love sour plums best. Sadly I have no plums in the garden. I have never noticed a fragrance from flowering plum. I have considered planting the local wild plum – Prunus americana – but apparently the fruit is favored more by bears and raccoons than birds. There are no bears in the neighborhood (nor would they be really welcome), and I have no desire to encourage the raccoons.

  11. Great post and incidentally you can freeze your Seville oranges. Just thought I’d say in case you are busy doing other things and it avoids the guilt provoked by looking at them.

    • Funny you should mention those oranges, but yesterday I decided that I couldn’t bear them staring at me any longer and so I chopped them up and boiled them for a bit. Today I will deal with them properly. I didn’t know that you could freeze them though (although I have seen sorbet filled peel I guess). Thanks for that info.

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