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Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Tree

I know the nursery rhyme really says, “Here we go ’round the mulberry bush.” But in my case it’s a tree; a tree growing on an empty lot 5 houses down the street from me.

This particular lot never had a house and the Village mows the grass every so often. I’m not sure exactly why this lot is empty because all the lots around it have houses with families. Perhaps it has to do with village planning gone awry.

There’s a street that T’s directly in front of this lot. Perhaps the intention at one time was to extend the street further north but in the meantime the streets behind it had other ideas and those lots sold to families who built houses. I don’t really know.  But I look at this lot as a sort of “village commons” open to all the residents. At any rate nobody has told me I cannot pick the mulberries. And there’s not a “No Trespassing” sign either…

I’ve been picking berries from this tree for a number of years now, and not being tall (that’s an understatement!) I’ve appreciated the fact that so many branches are low. Prior to last summer though, before the Village trimmed it,  I was able to reach many more than I can this year. Disappointing!

The darker the fruit the sweeter it is. In the picture above you can see mulberries in various stages of ripeness. The tree produces fruit from mid June through most of July.

Mulberries are a mixed bag. Some love this tree while others hate it. A mulberry is a messy tree. The fruit is soft and wet-ish and when it drops it leaves red juice on the pavement which turns black and stains concrete and asphalt, not to mention clothes and hands, driveways, sidewalks, and streets. Of course our little village has no sidewalks so there’s no staining there!

Walking through freshly dropped mulberry will leave red stains on your shoes too. And it can be slippery. Birds love them but the birds also leave purple droppings that can stain. So I can understand some people’s disagreeable attitude towards the tree.

But have you ever tasted fresh mulberries? If not, you are missing out on one of the pleasures of summer. Unless you happen to live nearby one of these trees you might not ever taste such sweet goodness. Mulberries are not sold in stores. I’m doubtful you would find them at a farmer’s market. The fruit is so fragile it can hardly stand being plucked from the tree. I’ve had some mush in my hand while picking. Just touching mulberries leave a sweet juicy stain.

After picking a small bowl of berries my hands are covered in the juice. Looks a bit like blood with it running across my hand, doesn’t it? Walking down the street back to my house with my hands covered in red makes me wonder what the neighbors would think if they should happen to look out their window as I pass by. My goodness, is that blood? Did she get injured? No, it’s just the result of picking a bowl of sweet, tasty mulberries.

If you look closely the soap bubbles are almost pink and there are still stains on my fingers and especially under the nails. It takes several days of hands in water before they’re clean….good thing there are lots of dishes to wash!

My husband introduced me to mulberries. He has some wonderful childhood memories of the fruit. Back in the day when he was growing up there was a tree growing along the fence in his backyard and he would sometimes climb the tree, sit there and feast on this tasty fruit. His favorite way to eat them though was crushed in a bowl with milk and sugar. Sugar?? He added sugar?? I guess to a kid everything tastes better with sugar.

The berries have short little green stems that we eat along with the fruit. I have tried to remove the stem but only succeeded in smashing the berry. You can’t really taste it and I figure it just adds more fiber!

My favorite way to enjoy the berry is right off the tree into my mouth. When I take walks in the mornings I pass this tree both going and coming back and I always stop for a snack along the way. They are delicious added to homemade Greek yogurt. In fact, the mulberries are so sweet no other sweetening is needed…(so why did my husband add sugar when he was a kid??)  I bet these would be delicious in smoothies too but I haven’t tried that yet.

I found a recipe online for mulberry jam that I’d like to try but I wonder if I’ll ever pick enough berries at once to make any. Maybe this coming weekend I’ll try to coax the whole family out for some berry picking. They might be game if they realized jam could be the end result. I suppose I could freeze them until I had enough. I’ve accumulated enough raspberries to make jam that way so it would probably work with mulberries too.

Probably every year since 2006 when a tornado took 5 mature trees in our backyard we’ve talked about planting a mulberry tree. We’ve already replaced 2 of the 5 trees and there’s still plenty of room for more.  It wouldn’t be near any sidewalks or driveways and I think the red bird droppings would be overlooked if it meant we’d have delicious sweet mulberries at our beck and call. Of course we practically have that now with the tree down the street.

Have you ever tasted mulberries? If not, I hope you get the opportunity someday soon.

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