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.
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.
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.
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.