What are my special features?
The Blaisdon Red is a traditional English jam plum which also has a good strong sweet flavour when ripe. The variety ripens in late August, the same time as the Victoria – the best known English plum. The Blaisdon was traditionally loved for its rich red colour and high natural pectin content.
The tree is a prolific fruiter, upright and disease resistant, growing up to 20ft. The Bliasdon is a true plum – it grows on its own root stock and does not have to be grafted. The fruit are medium-large, long oval to egg-shaped with a neck to the stem. They have claret red to purple bloomy skin, with golden yellow flesh and a clinging stone.
Hard and perfectly acidic when picked early for jam making, but if allowed to fully ripen on the tree in late August until it starts to drop it becomes sweet and tasty and can be eaten as a dessert plum. The main virtues of the plum are its reliable cropping and disease resistance, as well as its flavour and versatility.
The traditional orchards that contain the Blaisdon are very important for the regional biodiversity, supporting a large number of birds and, as at Haylings Farm, the rare Noble Chafer Beetle.
What is my history?
The Blaison Red Plum was ‘discovered’ in a hedge by John Dowding in the later 19th century, first recorded in 1892, in the village of Blaisdon, Gloucestershire. Around 100 years ago there were roughly 500 acres of Blaisdons in the area.
Blaisdon orchards were plentiful, with growers supplying Sullivans jam factory in Guiting Power. The factory eventually closed and the Blaisdons were no longer in fashion and surplus to requirement. The use of freezing by jam factories and the rising price of picking allowing cheaper imports to dominate aided the decline of the Blaisdon.
Before the decline of the Blaisdon, many Forest of Dean colliers used to spend their holidays picking the crop. It was grown extensively in the parishes of Blaisdon, Flaxley, Huntley, Littledean, Longhope, Minsterworth, Mitcheldean and Westbury, but many orchards have since been grubbed.
It is said the Blaisdons were found in the Antarctic huts of the ill-fated Scott expedition as they are reputed to assist in combating the effects of extreme cold.
Why am I forgotten?
The Blaisdon Red is a heritage variety with the perfect acidity for jamming and a superb taste as a dessert variety; however, it is only produced locally and on a small scale. The Blaisdon has to compete with larger dessert plums, for which demand is higher. The plum is resident in hedgerows around Blaisdon, but local producers need support and greater demand in order to increase the area under Blaisdon cultivation and enhance the market potential of this product.
Knowledge of using the variety is in decline, and without raising the Blaisdon’s profile, this plum may die a death as a commercial variety.
Don’t lose me…cook me!