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The bullace is a variety of plum. It bears edible fruit similar to those of the damson, and like the damson is considered to be a strain of the insititia subspecies of Prunus domestica. Although the term has regionally been applied to several different kinds of "wild plum" found in the United Kingdom, it is usually taken to refer to varieties with a spherical shape, as opposed to the oval damsons.[1][2]


Unlike nearly all damsons, bullaces may be either "white" (i.e. yellow or green) or "black" (i.e. blue or purple) in colour, and ripen up to six weeks later in the year.[3] Though smaller than most damsons, bullaces are much larger than the closely related sloe.[3] Their flavour is usually rather acidic until fully ripe.

Like other varieties of Prunus domestica, the bullace may have had its origin in hybrids between the sloe (Prunus spinosa) and cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), though there is also evidence that domestica was solely descended from the latter.[6] Another theory suggests that the bullace developed (or was selected) over time from the sloe, without the involvement of Prunus cerasifera.[7] Prunus insititia is still, however, occasionally regarded as a separate (entirely native) species.[6] It is possible that the bullace is genuinely native to Great Britain: the horticulturalist Harold Taylor, in his book The Plums of England, described it as "the only truly English plum", observing that all other hybrid varieties of plum and damson had at least some non-native origins.[8]

Although once cultivated, and familiar to gardeners of the Tudor period, the bullace gradually fell out of favour as newer, larger or sweeter types of damson or plum displaced it, and it hung on at the fringes of cultivation.[5] Its hardiness meant that, like the damson, it was occasionally planted as a windbreak or hedging tree, and until the 20th century was regarded as valuable for providing fruit very late in the year.

The Black Bullace is the common "wild" bullace of woods in England, recognisable by its small, round black or dark purple fruit.[9] It is sometimes classified as insititia var. nigra.[10] It can be quite astringent until very ripe, or subject to a slight frost; a larger variety known as the "New Black Bullace" was later developed from it.

The Langley Bullace, or "Veitch's Black Bullace", is by far the newest variety, being first raised in 1902 by the Veitch nurseries at Langley, Berkshire. It was a cross between an Orleans plum and the Farleigh damson, and is therefore not considered a true bullace in some sources.[15] This is the largest variety, and when ripe - which occurs in November - is much the sweetest.

Other names have appeared, but are likely to represent either the above broad types or variations of them; Abercrombie and Mawe, writing in 1779, described three types of bullace, the "white", "black" and "red".[16] Loudon also mentions a black, white and red bullace, as well a double flowered variety flore pleno.[17] Hogg described an "Essex Bullace", which appears in all respects identical to the Shepherd's Bullace, and a "Royal Bullace", said to bear very large, yellow-green fruit. A "New Large Bullace", probably synonymous with the Royal Bullace, was occasionally mentioned, described as very similar to the Shepherd's Bullace but with larger leaves, many of which were glandless, a much more vigorous habit, and lighter cropping.[18]

Bullaces are often stated to only be suitable for cooking.[19] As well as being used for stewing and making various fruit preserves, they were also traditionally used to make fruit wine, and a bullace pie was stated to be one of the usual centrepieces of a 19th-century harvest home supper in the south of England.[20] However, some bullaces are palatable raw when sufficiently ripe.

Bullace (Prunus insititia) is a sort of wild plum, closely related to Blackthorn and to damsons; insititia is a subspecies of Prunus domestica. It's found in hedgerows in the wild, and adds variety to a wildlife hedge. Left unpruned, however, bullace will grow to be a small tree.

Confusion reigns as to the origins of the different types of wild bullace - Black, White and Shepherd's. They were well known to Tudor gardeners and the origin of the name points to very old origins. It's traceable from Old French to Middle English. 'Langley' (as photo) is a bit of a cheat; it's a cross between an Orleans plum and a Farleigh Damson . The Veitch nursery in Langley came up with it in 1902.

There is much confusion and debate over the distinction, if any, between bullaces and damsons (another variety of plum) - as they share many characteristics - particularly the culinary properties of the small, astringent, aromatic fruit.

Description: Langley Bullace is a late, heavy cropping variety. Small round to round-oblong, blue-black fruits with a good bloom. Sharp in taste but delicious when cooked into a pudding, jam or cheese! The tree itself has interesting twisted branches. The best of the bullaces.

The bullaces my mother and I picked that day had yellowy-green skins with a red blush. Their flavour was tart, so I made them into jam. During the first decades of the twentieth century commercially produced plum jam was the default, and many low-income households saw no other kind. Decades later, plum jam was still the cheapest option. All the jam we ate when I was growing up was homemade, but I remember seeing tins of IXL plum jam imported from Australia in the school kitchen.

Quince belongs to the same family as apples and pears and the little known bullace is a variety of wild plum. This unusual pairing results in a versatile, subtly sweet drink which makes a delicious pudding gin, accompanying cheese particularly well.

Armed with a couple of handfuls of bullace and some under-ripe pears from a friend, I made this very simple chutney to go with cheese and meats. The dark skin of the bullace makes for a deep pinky colour.

Did you know that quince belongs to the same family as apples and pears? Or, that bullace is a variety of wild plumb? The Hedgepig Distillery has taken inspiration from locally grown fruits and turned this particular pairing into a subtle but sweet fruit gin liqueur that is great served over ice or as a tasty long drink.

I cooked the bullace in the microwave with the three tablespoons of water, allowed to cool a little then drained them and squished them around and around in a large-hole colander until all I had left in the colander were bare stones and tough skins.

1, Place bullace and water in large* Pyrex or similarly heat proof microwave safe bowl, covered, 10 mins high power to soften fruit. (*large enough to hold at least twice the amount of fruit you are putting in it)

If you cannot find wild plums or bullace use plums or damsons instead and the buttermilk could be substitute for natural yoghurt. A grated carrot or apple could be substituted for the grated pear. These muffins freezes very well, defrost them over night. 041b061a72


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