Thursday 17 November 2011

Mulberry hunting

I guess I've always taken mulberries for granted because they're so available in Jo'burg and I've been eating them every year since I can remember. In the past I've thought, "I really need to make something with them", but haven't even gotten as far as a mulberry jam. It's probably because I don't have a tree and so I usually munch on the run when I pass trees hanging into the road.

With timing running out before the berries go bye-bye, I decided to get myself some for a dessert. I has been hot, so their days are numbered. Last night I was on a mission. I started by going to an old haunt in Kensington where I remembered a tree with a good yield of sweet, juicy fruit. Nada. Not a mulberry in sight - all finished. As you may recall I had a silkworm thing happening last year so I paid more attention than normal, needing to pick leaves almost daily.

I headed back through near home and tried some trees on my regular running routes. Nothing either - they've all dropped their fruit in the past week. I got lucky on my last try -  a tree with lots of berries but higher than I can reach. Good thing I'd packed my little step ladder (just a two-step one, like you'd use in a kitchen to get to items on high shelves). It worked, barely, and I got enough berries for a dessert attempt.

Most recipes online are for mulberry cakes, crumbles, jams and smoothies but I didn't feel like any of these so I made a phyllo treat - mulberries plus finely chopped apple and a drizzle of honey sealed in phyllo layers. Came out nice-nice.

I was wondering why mulberries are so neglected and don't have the glamour of their berry cousins: strawberry, raspberry, cranberry and gooseberry. Part could be that they don't keep very well - they're squishy very soon after picking. And then there's the colour issue - the juice stains (as I recall from childhood) and turns everything it touches a deep purple. I learned something else - the stalks. They cannot just be plucked from the berry - the need to be snipped.

I thought about heading back to the mulberry tree today with a taller ladder, but I'm past it now after last night's dessert, which was yummy. Instead, I've decided to get my own mulberry tree to cultivate for next year's season.

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