Call me naïve, but I rarely doubt a nursery rhyme. Which is why it wasn’t till I reached the ripe age of 29 that I discovered that mulberries don’t actually grow on bushes.
On the contrary, mulberries grow on trees so tall that the lowest of their branches often tower just about my reach on tippy toes. I discovered this when András and I found a mulberry tree at the edge of the park blocks just two blocks from our home.
In pursuit of collecting the thousands of tiny berries before they fall to their squishy death, I’ve implored András to carry a step ladder the to the park with me for late-night pickings, encouraged nimble friends to climb its branches and sometimes even just waited, patiently, for them to drop right into my hands. But we rarely take home more than a pint or two.
After two years of meager harvests, András recently let me in on a little secret. In the old country, folks unfold a large old sheet under their mulberry tree and employ a little rascal to climb up in the branches and shake them until all the ripe berries fall to the sheet. They gather the edges and carry their loot home for preserves or pies.
Having neither an old sheet nor a little rascal, and a mulberry tree past its peak, I thought I’d have to wait until next year to put that plan into play. Until yesterday, when my friend Jenny pointed out that there were several more enormous trees, branches heavy with purple or white berries, lining the path that adjoined our two parks where I often take an evening walk or run. That’s what happens when you’re too busy marching forward to stop and look up ~ you just might miss something incredibly delicious.
People always ask me how I eat these foraged mulberries. I’ve twice collected enough to make mulberry lemonade popsicles, and recently picked enough during a bike ride into the woods with my Dad in Illinois to turn into mulberry shortcakes, which were both superb. They are also excellent on premium vanilla-bean ice cream. But the truth is they are best of all eaten out of hand straight from the tree, or the bush, if that’s where your mulberries grow.