Summer treasure 6: Mulberries

6/8/2018 It is a simple fact that mulberries are the most delicious summer berry in existence. No arguments. But, of course, there are many poor souls who have never eaten one, which I consider a grave deprivation.

Part of their charm is that – in contrast to other berries – instead of giving way when you bite into their juicy flesh, the centre of the berry puts up some resistance, and the seeds add a little crunch.

Mulberry juiceI do have two complaints against mulberries, however. The first is that even when fully ripe, the tree will not give them up easily, meaning you quickly end up looking like a murderer with blood running over your hands and between your fingers. The second is that there are never enough ripe at one time to do anything with – except eat straight and savour individually. A handful of them for dessert for a few weeks is about the extent of their abundance. But, on reflection, these are proper characteristics of edible gold. I don’t blame the tree for trying to keep hold of its treasures.

I have a large old mulberry tree in my garden, which has become somewhat squashed since the willow tree across the moat fell on it a few years ago. It may look aesthetically less pleasing now, but its angle means that more of its branches are within easy reach for mulberry picking. When we were children we used to pick the mulberries by putting ground sheets beneath the tree, shaking the branches, and collecting the mulberries from the ground. That way we’d get several punnets at once, if not more, but most of them would be light to medium red in colour. My mum used to stew them and make jam. But since ripe mulberries, dark red to the point of blackness, are so precious, this now seems to me a great waste, despite the fact I loved her creations.

mulberriesI have been reprimanding myself lately for forgetting to check the tree regularly enough, resulting in my missing a great number of ripe mulberries. By the time I remembered to look again earlier this week – prompted by my sister – the part of the tree with the greatest abundance of accessible mulberries bore only semi-desiccated fruit covered in hoverflies and wasps.

I finally had reason to be grateful for the unsynchronised ripening of the berries: on the other low branches, hiding behind the large, deep green leaves, there were still plenty of ripening mulberries which I would be able to enjoy over the coming weeks.

Last night I lifted up the twigs one by one, picked the ripe berries and put them straight in my mouth. There was no sense in delaying the pleasure.