We are lucky to have a mulberry tree in our backyard. Some might say we’re unlucky, because those squishy dark purple berries fall all over the place. Go barefoot, and you end up with purply black stains all over the bottoms of your feet. It gets on your hands when you pick them or eat them. It can take days to get rid of the stains, especially if the juice gets down into your cuticles or under your nails. But I think it’s worth it – they’re very sweet and juicy.
It’s strange and wonderful how it seems as if the tree knows what month it is. Almost on cue, the berries start to show up during May, but don’t ripen until June. Right around June 1 of every year, the first few sweet berries are ready to eat. Every day, we can go out and pick at least a small bowl full of them. By mid-month, we have more or more large bags in the freezer. Then, at the end of June, they suddenly stop ripening. There could be some that are even red, but they never quite get past that stage somehow. It doesn’t even seem to be dependent on the actual weather.
I’m suddenly realizing that our opportunity for fresh mulberries is almost gone for the year. We did manage to fill a gallon sized bag, but could have and should have picked more. I guess I know what we’re doing this weekend! I offer plastic gloves to the children, but they don’t bother to use them. I usually don’t use them either.
My favorite way to eat them is fresh – pick them, rinse them, and eat them. I also like them with some milk and a sprinkle of sugar. I got that idea from a guy from Denmark I met in college who used to slice and eat strawberries that way (thank you, Jens!). They turn the milk purple, almost like a kid’s cereal, but without all of the artificial coloring!
I’ve made a few mulberry pies, and have one in my deep freezer from last summer. They’re really easy to make, especially if you ‘cheat’ and buy the premade frozen crusts. I often do that for two reasons. One, I don’t think I’m very good at making pie crusts. Two, I do it for convenience. I don’t want to freeze the pies in my glass pie pan (then I can’t use it for anything else, and would be concerned about breaking it). Also, I can give away a homemade pie in the premade crust and disposable pan. I only have one glass pie pan, but the frozen ones are inexpensive.
I have been thinking lately about making other things with the mulberries. I know some people like to make jelly, jam, or even wine. I just don’t know if I’m up for that, but maybe I’ll try it someday. I don’t have all of the canning equipment, but I remember getting some fresh, homemade strawberry jelly from someone years ago. It was delicious!
I’m sure there are other ways to enjoy our mulberries; even just slightly defrosted, with or without whipped cream.
But I still can’t figure out how they only ripen in June…it’s like they know…