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!

Two Simple, Delicious Breakfasts

1) Passion Fruit Yogurt

If you are ever lucky enough to come across puckered, indented, ripe passion fruit in the store, by all means pick it up. It makes a scrumptious and easy breakfast with a mildly sweet yogurt (I used Pequea Valley Farm lemon yogurt, which is unbelievably good) and slivered almonds. It’s just sour-sweet enough, and very refreshing.

2) Perfectly Soft-Boiled Eggs

Marion Nestle‘s tome, What to Eat, sufficiently convinced me that runny eggs, although once perhaps far safer, are no longer to be trusted given modern farming methods. I do source eggs with care — picking organic and pasteured eggs whenever I can. Still, for some these will be past perfection.

I boiled these for 8 minutes. They were delicious on buttered toast.

Heavenly Pork Shoulder

Was going through the cupboards last night, and came across some lovely dried fruit. When I saw the pork shoulder from the sustainable farm at the farmer’s market this morning, I knew what I had to do.

This was truly delicious, and quite easy to prepare. You’ll need:

1 pork shoulder (organic and sustainably farmed)

Salt, pepper, rosemary, bay leaf and cinnamon sticks

1 white or yellow (organic) onion, diced

3-4 cloves (organic) garlic, sliced thin

1 cup (organic) carrots, diced

2 cups (1 bulb, basically) (organic) fennel, rough chopped

3 Tbls (grassfed, organic) butter

2 cups red wine

2-3 cups (unsulphured, organic) dried fruit (I used black mission figs, pitted dates, apricots, prunes and persimmons)

Beef or chicken (organic) stock (I used chicken, which was fine)

Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Melt the butter in a large dutch oven and brown the pork on all sides. Remove pork and add all the chopped vegetables, garlic and rosemary (as well as some pork fat or butter as needed). Stir occasionally until the vegetables are soft. Add pork back in, as well as red wine, and stock to fill pot.

Sprinkle in fruit, submerge cinnamon and bay leaves in broth.

Cover and cook for 2 hours. Uncover and discard bay leaves and cinnamon sticks (I also did not care for the taste of the cooked persimmons, though the flavor they left behind was wonderful.).

If you like, you can remove the pork and reduce the broth a bit over the stove. We liked the broth, so we merely poured it over some brown rice with a nice slice of the pork, which was juicy, sweet and falling apart. Happy Easter, indeed!

Adapted from a fussier version of this recipe, here.