The Mulberry Tree That Wouldn’t Give Up : A Story, a Cake and a Cocktail Recipe (with a YouTube Video)
UPDATE March 3, 2022 : Sadly, after a decade of life, this beautiful healthy tree was cut to the ground today, by a city crew who had no idea what it was. They were in the neighbourhood pruning branches from city owned trees nearby when, all of a sudden, one of the workers veered into our yard, aiming to cut down our precious Mulberry tree. We were watching them work from our upstairs window and so, saw the whole thing. In shock and horror, we tried to get him to stop, with my husband Nick opening the window and shouting down, and me, running to the door to talk to him. Unfortunately, he was yielding a chainsaw and the trunk had been cut too deeply by then. There was no option left but for him to cut the whole thing down. The tree was clearly within the boundaries of our lot and none of the branches reached over the sidewalk or onto city land, so we’re still confused as to why he would have done that. He said he thought it was a weed, which, given how it came to grow there, it was. But, it was a weed we loved and were taking good care of. I’m writing this the evening of the day this happened, and maybe I’m sounding melodramatic, but, right now, I feel like crying over this loss.
Around eight years ago, a weed sprouted in a little patch of earth right beside the walkway to our front door. It grew quickly and, because the branches blocked the path, I regularly and somewhat ruthlessly cut them right back. But, regardless of being so heavily pruned, it kept on growing.
We had no idea what it was, nor did anyone I asked about it, including some pretty seasoned gardeners. I looked it up but had very little to go on, so it remained a mystery.
I made a video on the topic ….
On with the story … We noticed that it looked beautiful in the autumn, with leaves that turned a stunning golden colour, so, while keeping the branches neatly trimmed to higher-than-people height, we let the top branches grow like an arch over the walkway. It looked lovely.
Then, around five years after it began, we noticed it had berries on it. They dropped to the ground where we had to walk through them, tracking red juice and squashed berries into the house, where they stained the rug. There were discussions about cutting this weed down completely but I was able to convince my husband Nick that it should stay. I swept the pathway every day during berry season and all was fine.
Then, one day I was inside and I heard laughing and talking out front. I looked out the window to see a mother and her children picking the berries and eating them. We’d never tried them ourselves, as, of course, we’ve always been told not to eat berries that we can’t identify.
I heard the mother say “these are the real thing”. “What real thing?”, I thought. I took another stab at the internet, this time having the berries as a new way to search. I looked up “looks like a raspberry and grows on a tree”, and immediately got our answer — it was a mulberry tree!
The reason it was so hard to identify is that these are not at all common here in Canada. Toronto is located at the very northern part of their growing range, so it was quite remarkable that a tiny seed dropped by an animal germinated and grew with vigor on our small front patch.
Today, we’re very happy that it worked so hard to survive and successfully avoided getting the axe (quite literally). We harvest the berries daily during their growing season, as only some mature at a time. Every time we’re out there, we get at least one curious passerby asking us what what kind of tree it is, further enforcing the fact that this is one uncommon plant in these parts.
Some of the berries are eaten and used in recipes while fresh, but most of them end up in the freezer for future pie making. There are so many that we even have some to share with our neighbours.
Here are a couple of things I made recently, including a cake made by adapting a recipe that usually calls for raspberries, and a cocktail. Footage of the cutting of the cake and the mixing of the drink are demonstrated in the video.
↑ Made using this recipe for “Raspberry Buttermilk Cake”, developed by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. I replaced the raspberries with double the amount of mulberries, and the buttermilk with regular milk with two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice stirred in. ↑
↑ Proof that tableware has been a lifelong obsession — I bought these pretty dessert plates as a little reward to myself, with my first pay-cheque after paying off my student loan! I’ve got six of them. We won’t discuss how old they are, but rather, how pleased I am today that the younger me made such a choice. They’re the now discontinued “Melina” pattern by Villeroy and Boch. I got them at the beautiful shop called William Ashley, located at Bloor and Bay (in Toronto). It was my favourite place to browse at lunchtime, when I worked nearby. ↑
The cocktail, a “Mulberry Mojito”, uses some fresh mint we have growing in our container garden.
How To Make a Mulberry Mojito :
- a handful of mulberries, fresh or frozen, stems clipped or pulled off, or raspberries
- 4 – 10 fresh mint leaves, depending on size. If they’re big, they should be torn into small pieces
- 2 teaspoons sugar, or to your liking, white or brown.
- juice of half a lime
- 1 1/2 ounces of light rum
- soda water
- ice cubes
In a tall glass, add lime juice and sugar and stir to dissolve sugar.
Add torn mint leaves and smash with a muddler or the back of a spoon. The aim is to release the flavour of the mint. Add the mulberries and muddle or mash them a bit.
Add rum, stir, add ice and top with soda water. Garnish with a sprig of mint, if desired.
Ingredients part 2
Instructions part 2
Description part 2
Ingredients part 3
Instructions part 3
Description part 3
Ingredients part 4
Instructions part 4
Description part 4
(For any crocheters interested in this coaster, there’s a “how-to”, including a description of a waterproof backing that won’t let moisture ruin a wooden tabletop, in this post.)
Thank you very much for visiting. I hope you’re well. xo loulou