The name damson derives from the Latin PRUNUM DAMASCENUM, "plum of Damascus". Damsons were first cultivated in antiquity in the area around the ancient city of Damascus, capital of modern-day Syria, and were introduced into England by the Romans. Remnants of damsons are often found during archaeological digs of ancient Roman camps across England, and ancient writings describe the use of damson skins in the manufacture of purple dye. The damson was introduced into the American colonies by English settlers before the American Revolution and are regarded as thriving better in the eastern United States than other European plum varieties. The skin of the damson can be heavily acidic, rendering the fruit unpalatable to some for eating out of hand. Because of this acidic, tart flavor, damsons are commercially grown for preparation in jellies and jams. Damson gin is made like sloe gin, although less sugar is necessary as the damsons are sweeter than sloes. Damsons are used to make slivovitz, a distilled plum spirit made in Slavic countries.

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