All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel;
The monkey stopped to pull up his sock,
Pop! goes the weasel.
WARNING!!! The posting you are about to read includes a recipe that is so amazingly good and wonderful that you will probably start drooling on your keyboard and could possibly short out your computer. Keep this in mind. Keep a paper towel handy!
Kids -- you have been warned... You can try this at home -- but it won't be easy. The ingredients require a rather lengthy hunt...
My thanks to Hank Shaw of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook fame. It was he who revealed the very top-secret location of a producing mulberry tree in his Orangevale neighborhood. And -- following his very precise instructions on where this secret treat was located -- Venus and I set out on "the hunt."
A hunt for fresh mulberries.
I'll be honest. I've never tasted a real mulberry before. Oh -- I've grown up with mulberry trees. I know all about them. They dotted Modesto backyards by the thousands when I was growing up there many moons ago. But these were the "fruitless" mulberry variety. If you've ever dealt with them -- then you know from experience -- these trees are infamous.
Homeowners planted these trees by the thousands in the new "cookie cutter" subdivisions that were built for returning World War II troops in the late forties and early fifties. The modern convenience known as central air conditioning simply wasn't available (unless you had money -- which most people didn't) -- and most of these homes were equipped with a wall unit swamp cooler. Or -- if you're lucky -- you actually had a REAL wall-unit air conditioner.
These devices were pretty good at keeping these small, cookie-cutter homes cool during the heat of the San Joaquin summers. But they were only effective if you closed off all doors to adjoining bedrooms and bathrooms. When it was time to "retire" for the evening? You were greeted by a BLAST of hot summer air upon entering your closed-off bedroom.
In response? Homeowners bought thousands of shade trees in an effort to keep outer bedrooms somewhat cool. The tree of choice? The fruitless mulberry. It was cheap. It grew fast. A single tree could shade half a house. Kids loved them because those wide branches sticking out over a rooftop made them easy and safe to climb. In fact, many a fruitless mulberry wound up doing double-duty as a home for a "treehouse" back in the "day."
But as time passed -- the disadvantages of the fruitless mulberry came to light. First? They dropped a METRIC TON of leaves during the fall. Mulching lawnmowers simply did not exist yet. The only way to deal with them was to rake the yard early and often. Some homeowners did. Many did not. Those leaves would then blow into a gutter and wash into a drain during the first rainstorm of the winter season.
End result? Plugged drains. Flooded streets. It occurred often. The roots of the fruitless mulberry trees were problematic as well. Those shallow root systems would grow beneath concrete patios and sidewalks -- lifting and then cracking them into a hundred different pieces. And -- if the root systems weren't growing underneath a concrete walkway? They were growing into and blocking nearby sewage pipes.
Many homeowners -- like my mother -- would wind up paying big $$$ to hire someone to not only chop down the offending tree but also remove the extensive root system. It was expensive. It was messy.
It didn't really dawn on me that the mulberry tree actually produced fruit similar to a blackberry or boysenberry until I saw a picture of a productive tree. I had never seen anything like it before. Oh sure -- I recognized the leaves alright. Those were the leaves of the dreaded fruitless mulberry tree. But this tree had berries on it! Thousands upon thousands of delicious berries.
What were they like? I had to find out.
Venus and I located the tree easily enough thanks to Hank Shaw's exact instructions. What greeted me however -- was a shock to the system. Venus and I noticed that the tree in question was growing out of the stump of a long dead
oak almond tree. The two tree systems had intertwined over time.
Interesting how Mother Nature can work sometimes.
Although the local bird population had been snacking on the mulberry treats for quite some time -- there was more than enough for the Birds to harvest. After five to ten minutes of reaching and picking -- we had enough mulberries to create a signature summer-time dish: Mulberry Cobbler.
Remember my warning about drooling on your keyboard? Yeah -- I warned you!
Venus and I also picked up a half flat of fresh strawberries -- which are in season now -- and taste absolutely delectable. We proceeded to combine the local strawberries with the strawberries from our backyard -- plus the mulberries we had harvest earlier -- and created a unique fruit combination I have never before tasted.
But this recipe contains more than just fruit and simple Bisquick mix. It would be nice if it was that easy -- but no -- there's another "secret" ingredient that we added to the mix. Of course -- every cobbler requires just a little bit of sugar to sweeten the dish just a tad. But the real kicker was two or three big spoonfuls of locally produced honey from the Hello Kitty Hive in the backyard.
The colony of bees that once populated that hive are long gone -- but they left behind a sweet treat that we continue to harvest to this very day. There is just nothing like the taste of unprocessed and unpasturized honey that comes straight from a backyard hive.
The finished product? Well -- the wife and I had that for desert just last night. And yes -- there's enough leftover for tonight and perhaps the next night as well.
Working with freshly harvested mulberries can be a messy experience -- so by all means -- do not wear your Sunday best to a harvest party. Expect to have hands and fingers that are stained purple-black by the time you've harvested your fill. Getting the stems off mulberries is also another trying experience.
There's a reason why you don't find this treat in your local supermarket.
But -- I can tell you this much from experience: It's well worth the time and effort.
Please don't hate me cause I'm good...