We have a love-hate relationship with the mulberry tree in our backyard. It’s like a tall oak. The fifty-foot tree drops raspberry-like clusters like steady rain for a month every summer, and the first few days are magical. Cramming handfuls of sun-warmed berries that taste faintly of cherries is heavenly. What a vision to look up into a tree with dappled light shining on thousands of berries that start out white,
turn to pink, and finally to purplish black.
The novelty soon turns into hard work as we try to keep up with the quantity—collecting as many of the falling berries as we can on several bedsheets spread under the tree. Then, we resort to rattling the branches with a broom to make more ripe ones fall. We lose speed, and interest, after the first week and the tree makes a purple mess for an entire month over half our yard. Under the tree it becomes a round berry carpet smooshed in the grass; the birds love the berries so the mess is also dotted with violet bird poop. It makes that part of the grass unusable for humans to lie on—or walk on—for the entire month of July, unless you don’t mind purple stains and squished berries caked onto clothes, skin and hair. Somehow the dog doesn't get the memo not to track purple dog paw prints into the house and on the carpet—that’s when the beach towels get spread out on the carpet.
We were just talking about chopping the tree down next year to end our misery, or at least cutting it back by half, until I made this sorbet today. Suddenly we love this tree and will be bragging about how lucky we are to have a tree that drops four pounds of black mulberries a day. If you plant one, though, plant it in a dirt field! After gathering the berries on big sheets, roll the berries off the sheets into giant colanders to wash. You just have to wash the sheets every other day or so; if you are wondering why, you’ll soon figure it out.
We’ve added mulberries to muffins (don’t stir them in to the batter, just add half the batter, place a few mulberries, and top off with remaining batter and more mulberries).
1 lb mulberries (approx. 4 C), green stems okay
¼ to ¾ C sugar (if using orange juice, add lesser quantity of sugar, or no sugar at all)
2/3 C water, orange juice, or white cranberry juice
2 TBL lemon juice (mulberries need the acidity from lemon juice)
pinch of salt
1 tsp rose water
Mint or basil leaves
a few berries (ripe and unripe)
- Pre-freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Wash and pick over mulberries. Drain thoroughly.
- Measure lemon juice and orange juice (or water) into 2-cup measuring glass. Stir sugar and salt into juices and stir until dissolved. Boil if necessary to dissolve sugar.
- Blend mulberries in blender. Add sugary juice.
- Refrigerate until chilled.
- Churn sorbet in ice cream maker following manufacturers directions.
- Serve with a sprig of basil or mint.