Mulberry – from garden to plate #6
The mulberry tree, an important pit stop on the daily commute to the bus stop. In a fight against the birds and bats we plucked ripe looking specimens guzzling one after another until the fear of missing the bus becomes too strong and theres nothing left to do but run to the end of the road. All the way trying to remember not to wipe sticky juicy stained fingers on our school dresses. The predators stalked our mulberry tree endlessly, eating most the crop from above, while we stood inside, enveloped, clearing all the branches within reach. There was never enough leftover for the traditional exploits of a pie or jam.
Starting out pale and hard the mulberry hides underneath big shady leaves and matures through sharp and tangy red to a sweet inky purple black. These were picked next door (thank you Kate!), as the mulberry tree from my childhood was sadly obliterated by the storm. The mulberry tree doesn’t only produce delectable fruit, the leaves are also important as the only food of the silkworm. I grew up feasting at the mulberry tree and wearing silk (pMum is a textile artist working with silk) – though quite possibly never at the same time. We would clip leaves and take them to primary school when friends had silkworms as pets and right now I’m reading Middlesex, which features a cocoonery. It all comes back to the mulberry.
When I moved to Sydney I memorised the locations of local trees, though sadly often missing out on the best fruit, with all reachable branches picked clean. The only indication of mulberry season being the stains on the footpath. But Spring this year turned into an orgy of mulberries. First there was the visit next door to ravage a tree heavy with fruit, then my sister hit the jackpot finding a secret, hidden cache. I returned to Sydney to bags of frozen fruit. Mulberries don’t keep or travel very well, which is why we rarely see them on supermarket shelves. So what to do with this unprecedented onslaught of mulberries?
Old favourites jams and pies were out, it was far too hot in Sydney and I needed instant gratification a little more sophisticated than gorging at the tree. So I made a fool. This dish should enhance and extend the natural flavour of its main ingredient, not overpowering the delicate sweetness of the mulberry. I used creme fraiche as a topping and served them in miniature shot glasses for a decadent mid-afternoon treat, the grown up version of eating fruit from the tree on the way home from the bus stop.
This isn’t really a recipe, just an idea. The amount you can make depends on how many mulberries you can get your mitts on. Use your intuition about quantities, and keep tasting as you go. If your fruit is very sweet you will need less sugar, and may even need some lemon juice, but be careful to not split the cream.
Wash your mulberries very well and remove the stem. Reserve a few and mash the remainder roughly with a fork. If they are hard feel free to puree them in a food processor.
In another bowl whip some cream until soft peaks form. Fold mulberries through cream and add icing sugar to taste. Place in the bottom of serving glasses.
In another bowl mix creme fraiche or mascarpone with a touch of sugar and finely grated lemon zest. Place spoonfuls on top of fool. Top with fresh mulberries and serve.