The food is all around us. Or so I like to think.
You just need to know where to look, and always have a bucket or basket with you.
Following on from the quietly inspiring visit from Artist as Family, who parked their bikes at our place for a day or two and proceeded to feast us with foraged elephant garlic, spear-caught wrass (that’s a fish), weedy salad and more, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for local goodness.
The next day I was delivering my small person to preschool when I realised that the entire entrance of said preschool is planted with dianella caerulea, or blue flax lily.
And the dianella was covered in the most beautiful blue edible berries.
Ok quick caveat. The reason I knew these were edible is because I’d just seen a post to that effect in my friend Diego’s instagram stream. While I’d love to have you believe I’m a bushfood goddess, let’s put that one to rest right now.
I do know how to run with new info however. That counts for something at least, right?
Anyway. Dianella. Not wanting to be that girl who died because of an instagram post, I did check that sources other than Diego thought it was edible. And yes, it is.
The local mob hereabouts have been eating it for 60,000 years.
So I picked and ate, and enjoyed – the berries were sweet, and nutty. Had a chat to the teachers at preschool about the wealth of bushfood in their front yard. Everyone happy.
Following on from this revelation, I went to check out a mulberry tree I’d noticed in passing, but hadn’t had a chance to properly check out.
Oh, mulberry. You are so very awesome.
The mulberry tree has been used through the ages for all sorts of things, and is an eminently useful plant. Some of it’s amazing uses include:
- edible berries containing antioxidants and much yumminess
- fast growing
- generally tough and drought hardy (good for less-attended planting areas)
- deciduous, so great for providing summer shade, winter sun
- fire retardant
- leaves are food for silkworms (if that’s your thing)
- leaves are 40% protein and excellent baled for stock feed (as mentioned in this book)
- fallen berries can be used to fatten pigs (as mentioned in this book)
All these fabulous attributes aside, this mission was about mulberry berries, plain and simple.
This mulberry tree stood in the backyard of a recently sold, abandoned house, which I suspect is about to be turned into units.
I felt it was my duty to make the most of what might be the final harvest from this awesome local resource.
I dragged a mum from preschool along with me (thanks Julie!) and we picked and talked and picked until our buckets and bags (and our fingers and mouths) were full and very purple indeed.
The mulberry is a berry you don’t often see in shops, because it’s quite delicate and therefore has a short shelf life.
Even picked fresh, they generally last a few days before going mouldy around the edges.
The answer, my friends, is pick an’ freeze! Freshly picked mulberries, if frozen straight away, behave themselves very well.
They defrost as plump, firm, whole berries and do not go gluggy.
So I froze some, set another bunch to turn into mulberry wild fermented wine, and ate the rest immediately.
All in all, a good morning’s foraging. Many future tummies will be happy and nourished as a result.
Any amazing recipes involving mulberry or dianella out there? I reckon there’s time for another few raids before the season ends, and I’m always up for some inspiration…
*Note: any bushfood should be eaten in small amounts until you’re sure it agrees with you, and this includes dianella caerulea, for which I found one reference to dizziness if eaten in large quantities.
Not that I expect anyone to eat a bucketload of the stuff, the same as any other food. But I thought it best be said.
Mulberries are such a generous tree. I love their shape, the way their branches caress the ground as if they’re bending to offer little children their fruit. We used to play in our parents’ tree as kids. They always have wonderful space under the branches, a natural treehouse. Wary of getting in trouble for stained clothes we would pile our t-shirts and dresses outside the tree and clamber about inside half nude with purple fingers and faces. Such a delight!
Mulberries have always been a favourite of mine. Two trees growing up and a tree at almost every place I have lived at since. I inherited 2 trees here when we moved here 11 years ago but they have only produced about 7 times with a couple of years with totally nil harvest. No frosts at the critical time this year has given us a phenomenal harvest. only one tree has been covered with fruit fly net, leaving the other wholly for the birds. The tree is about 4m high and across and has yielded about 1 kg per day… Read more »
Yum thanks Jimmy!
Mulberry and apple crumble or stewed mulberries. Our local shops’ carpark has a huge old tree hanging over into the carpark – we pick bagsful, the kids snip the stems off with scissors at home, then we cook the lot up with peeled and diced granny smith apples, served with a dollop of yoghurt.
Everyone wins – the kids love the crumble and I love the subversiveness of foraging fruit in a supermarket carpark 😉
Nice touch there Liesel 🙂
If you rub the unripe mulberries over your hands the purple stains will be (mostly) gone.
Mulberries are also a favourite with chickens. Their yolks will be amazing and their poos very black. An excellent cordial can be made with mulberries, honey and lemon juice (2kg mulberries, press in food mill or cold juicer, add juice of 4 big lemons, boil for a little while (sterilise but don’t kill it!), add 800g raw honey and cook for a little longer… bottle as per usual sterilising methods. Keeps well in the cupboard and best to refrigerate once opened. Will keep for a few weeks in the fridge, but better to make smaller bottles and drink daily. Great… Read more »
awesome katinka! thanks 🙂
We used to have a German Shepherd who would nibble the mulberries from the low hanging branches, have never heard of a dog liking the berries let alone picking their own! She’d come in with a purple mouth and a “who, me?” expression
that’s great 🙂
I also munch on younger mulberry leaves & chew the seeds in dianella.
I’ve heard that if you get stained by the purple berries to find an unripe green one and rub it over the stain and it will go! They are such generous trees with their fruit AND SHADE! What a pity there aren’t more around. and strange that they aren’t a food to be found in grocery stores.. but then, it’s a fun back lane forage activity :o) along with passion fruits and lemons :o)
Why aren’t there many trees around, there used to be heaps when I was young I’m only 38 now. My grandparents had one, friends had one, but now there aren’t many around, why? Why don’t people like growing them?
birds pooping purple on peoples washing seems to be the main evil that folks cite for not having them these days 🙂
That is a killer Mulberry haul Kirsten!
We were feasting on the best Marrickville had to offer a few weeks ago. Pebble our 6 year old flatmate had an incredible knack for picking the trees from a distance. Her dad Jeff also made a great mulberry and ginger beer. Good times.
Hi from the rest of the Join The Dots crew as well, hope you guys are doing splendid on the south coast.
hey beautifuls! many mulberry pastries to you x
that’s really interesting, thanks for that Natasha – though I have been told by multiple indigenous practitioners that these are edible, and we have eaten them for years – clearly they don’t agree with everyone! I wish there was more info on those incidental cases…