Friday, June 14, 2013

Mulberry Magic

The first harvest on the Smallest Farm In Iowa this year has nothing to do with the farmer.

The late snow and muck kept the peas out of the ground six weeks longer than usual. So my first food is from the mulberry trees that dominate the south half of the lot.

For three weeks a year, starting late but starting now, the mulberry supply approaches infinite. With each minute, the shifting angle of the setting sun changes the colors subtly and I see more ripe berries. I can hear them falling around me, dropping of their own ripe weight like a meteor shower of fruit.

Sometimes I get greedy and climb a ladder, but that feels a little like cheating. God wants the birds to have their share, too. But there's more than the birds can eat, more than the people can eat, and the only limit is the patience of the picker. My fingers and shoes and sometimes my ankles are stained dull purple; it's impossible to take a step without crushing at least eight or ten fallen berries. I don't see any ground dwellers eating them, and in two months I'll be mowing hundreds of tree sprouts. Left alone, this yard would be a mulberry orchard.

 I don't know what to do with this slightly sweet harvest. I suppose one could make wine, but I don't. Mostly they end up on ice cream or in yogurt or frozen. By July the picking will be done, and before school starts the last frozen berries are gone, barely noticed among the peppers and tomatoes and canning.

But next May, they'll be a very welcome treat again.

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