Friday, August 21, 2015
The Mighty Mulberry
I love mulberries. I have been eating them all my life. And now I find out they are good for me too.
Besides being low in calories for a berry mulberries help the body fight against cancer, aging, neurological disease, diabetes, inflammation, and bacterial infections. They help keep the arteries from constricting and causing high blood pressure. There is some indication that eating mulberries will protect the retina from UV rays. And they have a high amount of iron to build red blood cells.
Mulberries spoil quickly so you will not find them in the store. The best way to eat them is right from the tree.
While there are about a hundred kinds of mulberry tree there are only three basic kinds of mulberry. They are known by color. The dark purple mulberries are the sweetest. Red mulberries are slightly tart and tend to be smallest of the three. White mulberries have a little less flavor but they are much larger than the other two.
One of my favorite ways to eat mulberries is with whipped cream. If we either lived on a farm or were close to my grandparent's farm we had plenty of cream available for whipping. But otherwise whipping cream was too expensive.
My mom showed me an alternative. A can of evaporated milk placed into the freezer until very cold but not frozen will whip nicely. Just add a bit of sugar and vanilla and turn on the mixer. I was so used to making it that way that we thought it tasted just fine.
I liked the white mulberries with whipped cream the best. I think it may have been because the berries are larger. The milder taste of white mulberries supported the taste of the whipped cream. And it might have been easier to get enough of the larger white ones to feed everyone.
Mulberries grow everywhere in this part of the country. One reason is that birds also like them. They eat the berries then deposit seeds in waste all over the place. And you know birds. They are not fussy where or when they deposit that waste.
When we used to hang all our laundry on the line outside we all cursed the birds for leaving droppings on the clean clothes. They seem to be overly fond of bed sheets for some reason.
Vehicles are another favorite target. Cleaning windshields and the rest of the windows before going somewhere is a common occurrence in mulberry season.
As a child I made it a point to know where the trees were located. In one town where we lived we had a white mulberry tree right beside the road at our house. We moved to another house about a block away but the tree was still mine.
My grandparent's farm had all three kinds of mulberries in many different locations. At one corner of the pen holding the geese was a white mulberry tree. All I had to do was climb the fence and pick them to my heart's content.
At the dogleg corner to the pasture was a purple mulberry tree. There was another by the corn crib. For that one we could climb the fence of the pig pen to get into the tree easily. Besides eating the berries we used to pump fresh cold water and squeeze mulberry juice into it. We had "wine" to drink with our berries.
At one corner of the farm house grew a red mulberry tree. My grandfather thought they were all nothing but a nuisance. He hated cleaning the bird droppings off the tractor seats and all the other places they were found. So he decided to cut down the tree in the yard.
After he cut it down he noticed shoots of new trees sprouting the next year. He cut them out and took an axe to the stump of the old tree. When he was through there were only shards of tree trunk remaining.
But even that did not satisfy Grandpa. He poured lye into the remains. That should kill any life it had left.
The following year we saw nothing but the year after that a little bush began to spring up. Eventually there was a bush about eight feet high. It was basically a group of small tree trunks that grew in the same place. They were more limber than a regular tree trunk though. And they provided us with those nice red mulberries that we did not have to climb to get.
All of us kids (cousins included) spent a lot of time picking and eating mulberries from the mulberry bush. And Grandpa just mumbled under his breath about mulberries.