Yeesh, Amy. Do you ever make anything else?
Yes, sometimes. But not today.
Because yesterday I discovered that we have a mulberry tree leaning into our yard. That’s right: free berries.
Clearly I’ve been aware of this tree for a while. It grows in the two feet between our neighbor’s fence and ours. Over the almost two years we’ve been here, it’s gone from a six-foot-tall sprout to a leggy 15-foot sapling. We considered cutting it down last year because its branches shade my wee vegetable patch, but decided against it because hacking at a tree in a two-foot corridor sounded pretty miserable. That, and I didn’t know what it was.
Fast forward to this Sunday. Just as we were leaving church, I noticed a bunch of kids clustered under a tree on the edge of the parking area, clutching coffee cups full of fruit as they reached purple fingers into a tree. We were in a bit of a hurry, as the Comcast guy was waiting on our doorstep to replace a squirrel-gnawed box, but I beelined to the kids.
“Hey, whatcha picking?”
One girl looked at me, in the superior way of ten-year-olds who know something you don’t.
“Mulberries,” she said coolly, turning back to the tree to let me know our conversation was over.
“Really? We have one of these trees growing in my yard.”
I snagged a few berries and tossed them in my mouth. Hm. Lots of seeds, low acid, mild flavor. Like a smaller, seedier blackberry. Hmm.
After a few more minutes of picking (and depositing my catch into the girls’ waiting cups), J dragged me off to the car, reminding me that getting our internet back up was more important than berries. I begged to differ, but went along, consoled by the fact that there were probably more mulberries to be found at home.
Twenty minutes with a stepladder later, I’d hauled in about four cups of mulberries from our previously mysterious tree. After scrubbing the stubborn purple juice off my hands, I trotted to my laptop to confirm that they were in fact edible. Yep.
At one time, mulberry trees were introduced to North America in hopes of raising silkworms on their leaves. It turns out that our climate is none too friendly to silkworms, so the experiment was a bust. Mulberry trees, however, continue to thrive here to this day. In fact, the trees are fairly invasive and nearly impossible to kill–even if you cut them down, the stump will send out suckers that become new trees.
Recently, mulberries have acquired attention as a “superfood,” and are fairly obtainable dried from your local health food store. I won’t bore you with the details because I don’t want to encourage you to chase after “miracle foods” that promise everything short of eternal life. That’s silly. But if you happen to spot a mulberry tree in your neighborhood, do go out of your way to pick a few.
In deciding what to do with my unexpected haul of berries, a few things came to mind.
First, sangria: The complete lack of photographic evidence is proof of how good this was. Muddle about two cups of mulberries with half a cup of curacao or another orange liqueur, pour a bottle of cold pink wine on top and garnish with orange slices. Share with friends, lest you drink the whole pitcher yourself.
Second: muffins. Heidi Swanson has a much-lauded recipe for crunchy whole grain muffin recipe in her book, Super Natural Every Day. Clearly, crunchy millet and mild honey sounded like a perfect pairing with my seedy little mulberries. I threw in some lemon zest to bump up the flavor, and these pretty little things emerged from my oven. These are best straight from the oven with a little butter.
- 130g (3/4 c.) whole millet
- 45g (1/3 c.) tapioca starch
- 45g (1/4 c.) sweet rice flour
- 65g (1/3 c.) brown rice flour
- 50g (1/3 c.) sorghum flour
- 1 3/4 tsp. guar gum
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 c. plain yogurt
- 2 eggs
- 65g (1/3 c.) oil
- 150g (1/2 c.) honey
- 1 c. mulberries (or other berries), washed & patted dry
- Preheat oven to 350F and oil or line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, and set aside.
- Blitz millet briefly in a coffee grinder (3-5 seconds), until it resembles coarsely ground cornmeal. Remove to a mixing bowl.
- Whisk together dry ingredients with millet to remove any lumps. Add wet ingredients (lemon through honey), and stir until just combined. Gently fold in berries, reserving a small handful for the top.
- Divide batter evenly between muffin cups. Scatter a few of the reserved berries across the tops. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden and no longer damp in the centers when you stab one with a toothpick.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes in pan. Cut loose with a paring knife and remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.