Sunday, June 21, 2009

What is the use of a Mulberry Tree?

Or: What's the diff between "Good" and "Bad" fruit trees?

A tender young weedling, with the look of a promise, was allowed to grow in my back yard about 6 summers ago. Last week, the vastly matured weedling began dropping a goodly load of succulent-looking berries, similar to blackberries. According to neighbors (the ones who have my weedling's probable momma incumbent in their yard), mulberries are a royal pain. They are a pain because: dogs eat them and get the runs; the ripened berries drop and pile up in the yard at an incredible rate, attracting bugs and beasties; they are labor-intensive to use as actual food (true).

Yeah, well.

They also, in my opinion, are terrific, fast-growing trees. If you're looking to populate your acreage fast with shade and fruits, its a really cool tree, and it gets big--its not one of those wimpy dwarf-type varieties, developed for tiny little conservative spots, easily controlled and maintained. No sirree, baby, this tree has hair on its chest. Its a REAL tree. Warts and all.

The fruit is sweet. I like it! And its really FUN to have a wild, bird-poo-sown, fruit-bearing tree growing in my yard. The birds and I are quite fond of it. I spread a cloth underneath the tree during the harvest period (in SE Michigan, mid to end June). This way, I can shake the tree and the berries fall on it while they are ripe, before they are purely smushy (ever seen the olive-gathering scene in Under the Tuscan Sun? Live the moment...). I read somewhere that the not-quite-ripe mulberries have a mildly euphoric effect. I'm experimenting with this, but have not yet confirmed it. Darn.

Another point in my good ole weedy mulberry tree's favor: I have a passion for real food, and berries from my friendly tree qualify as 'real' in my book. I watch them bloom, mess around with the bees, and fall to their fate. I handle them fondly (Nearly erotic, eh? No, wait, that would be "fondle them handily."), wash them gently, remove their annoying little stems while I devolve into a monotonous coma which could be called meditation, and freeze them for use in numerous things. Like: hopefully, someday, wine like Dad used to make; cobbler, which I haven't tried; mulberry vodka liquor, which recipe I googled from a Brit blogger (those Brits); and maybe toss them in with my resident plain yogurt for a cheap thrill.

I feel protective of my mulberry tree, partly because its an underdog, and partly because it's ilk so happily, randomly, recreates in any port/any storm. Maybe I will adopt it as one of my personal attributes to adorn my family crest, when I create one. Maybe not. We'll see how the wine turns out.

Answer: "Good" fruit trees might suggest "ease of access and processing." "Bad" might suggest "more work than seems recompensed for satisfaction." Ah, but satisfaction in food is also in the preparation, the intimacy, the affinity, of eater with eatee . Real Food Requires Persistence and Dedication. So, when in the mood for a keeper-tree, Why Not Mulberries?