Wild Damsons and a Damson Custard Tart Recipe
Updated: Aug 20
Wild damsons, yellow or deep purple bullaces, wild plums or even feral greengages in fact any of the wild stoned fruits will work with this recipe, the only rule is that the fruit needs to be really ripe! I would call this a weekend recipe as it does take a little time to prepare.. But as the saying goes ‘all good things to those who wait’... This definitely confirms this wise rule.
Varieties of Wild Damson, Bullace and Plum in the UK
In the hedgerows of the UK, there are a number of wild varieties of damsons, bullace and plums. I like to spot blossom in the spring to find these delicious trees, but once they are in fruit, you won't stop noticing their yummy fruits growing everywhere, they really are quite common. Here's a breakdown of some of the types of stoned fruits that you can forage in the UK:
Common Wild Damson (Prunus insititia): This is the native wild damson variety found in the UK. It typically has small, oval fruits with a dark purple or blue-black skin. Wild damsons are known for their tart flavour and are often used in making preserves, liqueurs, and traditional damson gin.
Bullace (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia): The term "bullace" is often used to refer to various wild plum-like fruits in the UK. Wild bullaces come in a variety of different colours, including yellow, green, or purple. They are usually smaller and more acidic than cultivated plums, I think the flavour is a little more complex, perfect in a sweeted tart. Bullaces are often used in cooking, baking, and for making jams and jellies.
Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera): While not strictly a wild variety, the cherry plum is a small, round plum with a yellow to red skin. It is considered a wild, as it has strayed from the parks and gardens that it was originally planted in, and it can be found in the UK countryside, particularly in hedgerows. Cherry plums are sweet and tangy and can be eaten fresh or used in cooking and preserves.
Wild damsons, bullaces, and plums can vary in appearance and flavour depending on their specific location and growing conditions, just the accessibility to light can make the fruit sweeter or more bland. These wild fruits are often foraged or found growing in hedgerows, woodlands, and other natural habitats across the UK, but you can use any of the above wild fruits in this delicious recipe.
Make swift work of picking berries with this selection of fantastic fruit pickers.
Damson and Custard Tart
For the damsons:
400g wild damsons
30g caster sugar
For the pastry:
250g Plain Flour
125g Butter cut into small pieces
1 Free Range Egg
1 Tsp Golden Caster Sugar
½ Tsp Maldon Salt
40ml Cold Water
For the custard filling:
6 Egg Yolks
125g Caster Sugar
40g Plain Flour
500ml Full fat Milk
1 Vanilla Pod
Firstly, half and pit your damsons, store in the fridge until ready.
Next the pastry, on a clean surface pile the flour and make a little well in the middle. Make sure that your butter is just soft enough to work and place it in the flour well. Also, add your egg sugar and salt (really pinch your salt in to make it as fine as possible). Now using your fingers draw in the flour and similar to making crumble mix pinch the ingredients until thoroughly mixed and the dough begins to hold together. When the dough is in a firm ball wrap in cling film and allow to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Now for the custard filling, whisk the egg yolks and about a 1/3rd of the sugar together, when thoroughly mixed add the flour and continue to whisk until completely combined.
On the stove, in a small pan heat the milk with the remaining sugar and the vanilla pod (make sure that you split the pod, scrape out the seeds and add them all to the milk). When the mixture comes to the boil pour it onto the egg yolk mixture, whisking the whole while. Mix well and then return the mix back to the pan that you heated the milk in.
Looking for other wild inspired sweet treats? Check out my Rosehip Slice recipe.
Bring the mixture back up to the boil and on a medium heat cook for 2 minutes – important keep whisking and checking the bottom of the pan preventing it from catching, you are looking for a firm sauce consistency.
The custard or crème patissiere is cooked. It will make a skin quickly so place a little circle baking paper over the liquid until ready.
Get the oven warming up to 190 degrees.
Now the assembly, you’ll need a flan case, say 20 to 25 cm. Line it, butter it and place a round of baking paper in the bottom of the case. Roll out the flan pastry in a larger round than the flan case, on the back of a rolling pin pick up the pastry and unroll it over the flan case. Ease it into the case and then press in until perfectly lined. Using a fork prick the bottom of the flan pastry and then evenly spoon the custard over the base (remove the Vanilla pod prior to pouring out the custard). Then try and create a nice pattern with the damsons laying them cut side down, when the top is completely covered in the purple fruits its ready for the oven. Cook at 190 degrees for 30 minutes the pastry should begin to cook and crisp and the damsons soften. Once the 30 minutes is up turn the oven up to 200 degrees, sprinkle the top of the tart with a little more caster sugar and return to the hot oven for 10 minutes. You want the sugar to caramelise and turn delicious!
Once cooked, that’s it. You can allow it to cool, serve it hot, whatever, just enjoy!
Love cooking wild food? Check out our selection of wild food cookbooks here.