One of the most exciting discoveries about our new home is that we have Denbigh Plum in our garden.
The Denbigh Plum is similar to champagne and Cornish pasties – it has been awarded Protected Designation of Origin status. This officially identifies a product originating in a specific place whose quality or characteristics are exclusively due to its geography.
The Denbigh Plum can only be found in and around certain areas of Denbigh and the Vale of Clwyd. And we have at least one tree in our garden!
The people who we bought the house from had said that there were a couple of ancient varieties growing. I asked a representative of the Denbigh Plum Group if they could help me identify our plum trees, of which we have many in our garden.
The Denbigh Plum is a beautiful lighter purple colour with distinctive golden spots on the skin. Sadly, many of ours were eaten by wasps. Nia, from the Denbigh Plum Group, explained that this was because the Denbigh Plum’s skin is so thin compared to ‘newer’/younger varieties of plum which had been bred to have a thicker skin – therefore wasps favour the Denbigh Plum as they are so easy to get into and devour. Good for wasps, very sad for us – we managed to snaffle a few though!
We ate the Denbigh Plums we managed to wrestle off the wasps in our garden, but our other plum trees, still to be identified so let me know if you know what variety these could be, had so much fruit this year we didn’t want to waste any. Their skins are a bit thicker, so not quite as inviting to our stripy, winged friends.
We had a family picking session with Aunty Marjorie, then my mum kindly took a few bags home and made them into plum jam. Yum!
The Denbigh Plum itself dates back hundreds of years. No-one knows quite how far back, but the 13th Century friary just outside Denbigh was described as having plum trees – and the site still to this day has very old Denbigh Plum trees growing there.
‘The Denbigh Plum’ was mentioned in a newspaper article about the Vale of Clwyd Horticultural Show in 1856. The very first show’s records note a prize for some Denbigh Plums, too, in 1850. By the late 1890’s, Denbighshire was the largest county area of small fruit in Wales. There were 533 market gardens, 23 nurseries and 235 orchards.
As Wales’ only native plum, it’s really heartening to see that this history can still be found in local place names, as well as the fruit trees themselves. Look out for “Bryn Eirin” (Plum Hill) and “Rhyd yr Eirin” (Ford by the plums) in Denbigh.
Merywen Gin, the smallest distillery in Wales, using north Wales ingredients for their small batches, have even created a limited-edition Denbigh Plum gin. I don’t know how I’ve managed to make the bottle last this long as it is gorgeous!
If all this plum talk has made you hungry, or just intrigued about this delicious, historical little fruit, this weekend is a great one to find out more. On Saturday 5th October, Denbigh will host its 11th Denbigh Plum Festival. The whole town will be celebrating all things plum, including lots of food and crafts… and gin!
It’s so exciting to have such an important historic link with the area in our very own garden – a link that we can continue to look after (and sample!) each year.
Perhaps next year we’ll try making our own gin. Any excuse..!
Iechyd Da, Cheers!