Mulberry Summer

mulberries1

There are four mulberry trees around my tiny urban lot and 2012 will go on record as the year of the Mulberry for us. The trees just won’t stop. Three weeks ago the berries were amazingly thick and they show few signs now that they are done for the season.

Nearly half a bushel have been dehydrated—which now fill slightly over a one-quart jar—and I have eaten handfuls, even bowls full, everyday. I have taken a mulberry cobbler to work and a mulberry crisp to a potluck.

Two 40 lb topsoil bags are filled and sitting on my curb, scraped from the sidewalk,A and that barely dented the pulpy mess from one tree. I haven’t dealt with street. I must put on my garden clogs to get to the compost bin. Bob, my dog, has somewhat purple paws from his patrol of the front of the house and side.

The cobbler was a hit. I loved the chatter around the mulberry bowl as my co-workers discussed memories of eating them as children and having stained fingers and clothes. Most said they would never have thought of cooking with them. At least one person had never eaten them and did not know they were edible. Everyone took a tiny bite at first, but they all came back for more. I took and empty bowl back to my desk.

The mulberry crisp was a major hit at the potluck. This group had a broad range of flower-children, hippie types who had memories of making jams, fruit leather, and fruit salads. Our group was a generation of Euell Gibbons followers, Beat Poets, and Diggers whose fruit was even outside the mainstream.

I’m not tired of them yet—my co-workers, my friends, or the mulberries. This afternoon I came home from work to let Bob out and to eat my lunch. I parked the truck in the shade near the mulberry tree that overhangs the forge parking lot. When I was heading back to work, I stopped and picked a small bowl of berries to eat at my desk. Big, fat black, juicy little honeys.

As I walked around the branches picking off the biggest berries, I was very much aware of the forge security guard sitting in the doorway across Findlay Street. He had been sitting there when I went to work at 8:30 this morning and he was still there when I came home at noon; still there when I was picking mulberries to-go. A big guy, obviously not used to moving around much and I couldn’t help wondering about his response time if there was a security issue. He’s about my age, which is to say under 60ish, but not much. Work is hard to come by and younger men want more pay, I guess.

Driving across the lot and down the ally to Findlay, I saw him getting up with great effort. As I approached the driveway he began motioning me, as if he needed to talk. Aware that I was blocking a lane at a busy intersection, I rolled my window down and leaned toward the passenger window. He wanted to know if I was picking cherries. A car honked at the inconvenience I had caused and the security guy yelled at the driver to ‘shut up.’ He was focused on the ‘cherries.’

“They’re mulberries,” I said.

“Mulberries?” he seemed almost confused because he wasn’t expecting that. There was a pause.

“Here, would you like some?” I took the lid off and offered the container.

He very carefully took one and popped it in his mouth.

For just a second, I thought how funny it would be if his white handlebar mustache turned that purple-gray mulberry color.

I saw him suddenly as a 10 year-old when his face softened at the memory of something.

“Mulberries. Sure, I used to eat these all the time when I was a kid.”

He told me of his neighbor’s cherry tree and how he had to ask their permission to gather the fruit “that was so good,” as they were not picking their cherries and they were falling on the ground. I edged the truck forward into only one lane as cars flew past us.

“I haven’t had these since I was a kid.”

“Have some more.” I put the container out toward the passenger window again. “Some folks think these aren’t edible. I guess this makes us the smart ones.”

He had large hands and I could see the mulberry stains has he pulled most of my mulberries away from the dish. I was delighted to connect with someone new in my neighborhood. Even more, I was glad that I could connect this man with a found food.

 

I’m not the only one enamored of mulberries. Check out this link from the Atlantic a couple of years ago: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/06/how-to-embrace-an-overlooked-berry/57974/

 

 

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