realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Category Archives: Greengages

Pigeon damage

Because of shortage of fresh green growth, pigeons are causing a lot of damage to the developing blossoms of many different fruit trees, but in particular to plums and green gages. This will carry on until more attractive sources of food become available.

Without blossom, there can be no fruit set, and so no fruit! Therefore if damage is only slight, no action needs to be taken. If the cold period continues, pigeons are capable of literally stripping off all the blossom. Black cotton threads, woven through the flowering branches, will usually stop the damage. Just wind it around the tree (slip the spool onto a rod or dowel to make things simpler) so that the threads are about six inches apart. What happens is that the bird flies towards the tree, doesn’t see the thread, touches it with its wing, gets a fright, and flies off. No damage to the bird is done, and it helps save the blossom!

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The historical background of the greengage

Many people think that the greengage is a real English type of fruit. Often people are puzzled why it is so difficult to grow regular crops of greengages. The real reason is that the home of this delicious fruit variety was originally in the country of Armenia. Smallholdings there often had some of these trees, and the fruit was used simply to meet the families’ needs. But already by the 15th century these fruits were sold -often dried, so they would keep longer – to passing traders en route to the West to sell their silk fabrics. In addition to greengages, fruits such as dates, nuts and almonds were also sold.

This trading route was known as the Silk Road, connecting China, Central Asia, the Balkans, including Georgia and Armenia, to the West of Europe.

In this way, the greengage arrived in Greece around 1500, Italy around 1600, and France in about 1700. During the reign of King Francis I, in the 18th century, the fruits were introduced to Claude, the queen. She was delighted with these small, delicious fruits, and they became known as the Reine Claude variety. An English nobleman named Sir Thomas Gage, visiting France at that time, was equally delighted with the flavour of these fruits. So he introduced the fruits to England and renamed them after himself. The name stuck and so today this type of fruit, green to golden in colour, is still known in the UK as the “GREEN GAGE”.

So why are these little fruits so outstanding, flavour-wise? In my view, this is directly related to where these types of fruit were developed in ancient times. Armenia, which is situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, has an ideal fruit-growing climate, with cold winters and warm dry summers. The particular sweetness of the fruit, now firmly established in the greengage’s genetic make-up, is a result of adaptation to the warm and dry summer climatic conditions.

Although fruit tree grafting was already practiced as early as the eighth and ninth centuries, the reproduction of the greengage type of plum took place by simply planting the stones of these fruits. It is for this reason that the true greengage has not lost its delicate sweetness, unrivalled by any other fruit. But the successful growing of greengages in England is a real challenge.

Greengages, photo courtesy of Tiggins Meadow/flickr.com

Greengages, photo courtesy of Tiggins Meadow/flickr.com