Mulberry, Mulberry, Mulberry

Despite my occasional urge to dump cancer-causing upholstery, I’m not angry all — or even most — of the time.

As one of my favorite poets, Robert Hass, writes:

There are moments when the body is as numinous

as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.

Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,

saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

— Meditation at Lagunitas

For myself, I’ve been meditating on the mulberries. Every summer, just as the honeysuckle thickens the air, the mulberries pop out of the trees. And mostly onto the ground, if my own neighborhood is any indication.

They like to have their feet wet, so look out for them near streams. You often can tell mulberry trees, with their many spindly arms, by the black splotches coloring the pavement like a monochromatic Jackson Pollack.

Mulberries have a wonderful sweet-tart flavor and are brainlessly easy to pick. In Pakistan, where a friend lived once, young boys would scale and shake the trees so that the fruit would shower down on sheets, which makes a lot of sense. When ripe, if you bend a branch to pick the berries, you’re likely to get bopped by falling fruit. Watch out, they stain! And they paint fingers — and the edges of Maya’s mouth — a bright pink.

In many parts of the world, they are a much-anticipated delicacy, around for only a brief whisper of time as spring moves on to summer. They are an ingredient fundamental to Chinese medicine, among other uses.

Mulberries are beginning to be studied in the West for their health-promoting properties. They are known in India, according to my mother-in-law, as a good food for diabetics, because they increase blood circulation. (But be aware that they are contra-indicated for those with kidney or liver problems.) Still, we seemed to be the only ones harvesting them (right into our mouths) at our local park.

And they’re delicious. Look around and see if you can find a tree, as the chances are good that they are overloaded right this minute with gorgeous, delicious fruit. They’re a little taste of the good stuff…

Mulberries are lovely with plain yogurt and ribbons of fresh mint. I’ve never done any baking with them, because they rarely make it home in any real amount. (If you do get some to refrigerate, one tip is to wait to wash them until right before eating — they are so tender that any water hastens spoilage.)

If anyone has recipes they’ve tried and like, please do post a link!

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