Written by Sarah Millican


Shit in the Garden: damsons

Not naturally green-fingered, Sarah Millican is nevertheless making the most of her outdoor space. In this episode, she’s hoping there aren’t maggots in her damson haul.

Illustration by Louise Boulter

This morning I picked damsons from a tree in my garden. As a woman who prior to this house only ever had a yard full of bins, this sentence is alien to me. Like when I asked my husband if he’d managed to get “my special muesli” or when I decided I needed a washing line. I don’t think I have changed. It’s just that a dead middle class housewife sometimes uses my voice. I know I haven’t changed as the muesli thing is probably a phase and I would still rather have a chunky KitKat and a cup of sugary tea. The washing line is just so I can run outside in house slippers when it starts to rain and create a drama out of a few damp pillowcases. I like a drama. And most importantly at the moment, I have no idea what to do with my damsons. Not even sure what they are. I googled them and they seem to be smaller, horrible plums. Or massive shit grapes. Somewhere between a bollock and a haemorrhoid, then.

You may have unwittingly been eating damsons for years.

I haven’t tried them as I read that they have an “astringent” taste and I’m pretty sure that’s what I use to take my makeup off. Also my husband is convinced they’ll be full of maggots due to either a childhood memory or a horror film, I forget which.

So I picked them. And contrary to expectation, I was not wearing a sundress and wide brimmed straw boater. Rather my nightie (Marksies, T-shirt material, too short at the back) and some trainers (pulled on fully laced, I miss Velcro). I held one to my ear wondering what maggots sound like when sitting in a shit grape. Nothing. The maggots were asleep. It WAS early.

I asked Twitter for suggestions as to what I should do with my damsons. Les Dennis said jam, Nigel Slater said crumble, my friend Ruth once stirred stewed damsons into a cake batter and said it was delicious. All agreed that they were bitter raw, but once warmed through with a huge amount of sugar were very edible. So would haemorrhoids be, I’d argue. The one I had, I only saw once with a mirror and it looked like a well chewed Hubba Bubba.

Damsons: small, horrible plums or massive, shit grapes?

And though most people I know are aware of damsons but like me don’t know what they are and can’t resist doing a rubbish joke about them being “in distress”, I know something that would blow their minds. I’ve heard a rumour that as damsons are cheap and abundant, they form the basis of most cheap jams. Bung in a couple of the more showy fruit, like a strawberry or a raspberry and there you go. Damsons on toast all round. So while we’re all shouting about how we don’t know what they are, we may have had them on toast this very morning. I feel so ashamed. Jill Brand, cookery and preserves judge at the National Federation for the WI, isn’t sure if this is true, but I will happily now think of damsons as the quiet heroes of the jam world.

For now, they are in my freezer. In a drawer alongside ice pops and unlabelled plastic tubs of brown. Waiting for a time I can make a cake.

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Written by Sarah Millican

Sarah Millican is a comedian, writer, reformed workaholic, feminist, cat and dog mam, wife and lover of food.