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Mulberries

One of my favorite things about summer is the appearance of more free fresh fruit than I could ever possibly eat: mulberries!

If you’ve never foraged for mulberries, I highly encourage you to do so. And if “foraging” sounds a little too hippie for you, just imagine that you are homeless, or a bear, and that should make it seem a little less weird.

So you’re ready to give it a try? Here are a few things to remember:

The great thing about mulberries is: nobody wants them! They grow as weed trees in the most of the United States. Nobody is going to care if you stop to munch on mulberries that are hanging out over the road or pathway. If anything you are doing them a favor.

Which brings me to my next point:

Mulberry trees are very easy to identify and locate. Simply look for the purple mess on the ground or road beneath them. Mulberries typically grow along roadsides or in alleyways, at the edge of wooded areas or forgotten patches of brush. The mulberry tree will be laden with clusters of red and purple berries. And just to be absolutely certain, look for leaves that are lobed, like this:

Mulberry leaves

Mulberries are great for a refreshing impromptu summer snack, but if you want to get really serious about foraging and using this completely free and nutritious summer food, you’ll need a little forethought and preparation.

Once you know how to recognize a mulberry tree and decide they are worth the minimal effort to gather, your next mission is to scope out your area to find the best mulberry trees. There are dozens growing in my neighborhood, and I’ve narrowed it down to three that are the most flavorful and easiest to get to.

Every mulberry tree tastes different from the others. Often there will be two growing side by side, with the berries of one tree tasting amazing, and the berries of the neighboring tree tasting absolutely flavorless. It takes a little bit of research to find the worthwhile mulberry patches.

Mulberry foraging containers

When gathering large amounts of berries, bring some plastic containers with lids to store them safely. Mulberries are extremely delicate, and simply tossing them all in to a bag together will surely damage them before you make it home. That being said, it’s best to bring along a buddy to pull down branches and hold them while you ever so gently loosen them from the tree and drop them in your container. Just make sure he/she doesn’t get distracted with stuffing mulberries into his/her gob before you can get them safely tucked away.

Mulberries are juicy and richly colored, so wear appropriate clothing that won’t get ruined. And if you are squeamish about having stained hands, you may want to wear gloves, though I wouldn’t recommend it because a)this will look really weird and you might already be a little self-conscious while picking berries, and b)it could seriously impede your ability to pluck them and keep them from dropping to the ground.

Mulberries are best eaten or used as soon as possible. They will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator, but they won’t taste nearly as good as they are when they are fresh. Avoid washing them, though I will submerge them in cold water to remove debris and creepy crawlies, and as an added bonus the unripe berries usually float to the top where they can be easily removed. I like to put just a little lemon juice on the berries before they go into the fridge. The juice adds a little tartness and brings out the flavor, and in addition will act as a natural preservative to extend the life of your mulberries.

Mulberries can be used in any recipe that calls for fresh fruit. Cobblers, shortcakes, crisps, skillet pies: just do a google search for mulberry recipes, or try substituting them in your favorite dish. Since the flavor is more subtle than many other fruits, I’ve enjoyed mulberries on my salad. Mulberries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, and make a great addition to any diet! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Mulberry Cobbler

 

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