I remember the first time my dad noticed the mulberry tree in my back yard. It was a few summers ago, and he excitedly picked up a few of the many, many mulberries scattered across the lawn.
“Look at this! Mulberries!” he said, as he popped them in his mouth.
“Um, are you sure, dad?” I asked. I knew nothing about mulberries and was vaguely worried that he might be eating something that looked like a mulberry but was actually poisonous or something. All I knew was that each June the back corner of my yard became a minefield of berries that dropped from the tree, got squished under our shoes, and made messy stains whenever we accidentally tracked them inside the house.
“Oh, they’re mulberries all right,” my dad said. “I used to pick them all the time when I was a kid.” He popped a few more in his mouth and offered some to me. (And for the record, he did not get sick or poisoned, so he was right — mulberries!)
After a few more seasons of the backyard mulberry minefield went by, my husband decided last summer that it was a shame we were letting all those free mulberries go to waste. He had a plan: we were going to harvest the mulberries and use them for… something. He wasn’t sure what, exactly, but no matter. The first step was to get them. He’d figure out what to do with them later.
So we marched into the back yard as a family — two grownups and a three-year-old — ready to take on our harvesting project. My husband enjoys coming up with creative ways to solve problems, and he had his harvesting plans all worked out.
There’s a shed underneath the tree, and many of the berries had dropped on its roof. My husband got on top of the shed and cleared away the old, rotting berries that were already there. Then he spread a tarp and shook the tree branches above to get a fresh batch onto the roof.
He swept the freshly fallen berries from the roof into the shed’s rain gutter…
…and used the hose to wash them down…
…into a large bucket he had rigged up at the bottom of the gutter below.
We also wanted to get some of the berries from the part of the tree that wasn’t hanging over the shed, so the three of us spread out a tarp on the ground…
…and shook the branches overhead.
We put the berries from the tarp and the berries from the shed roof together and rinsed them a few times.
Then it was time to sort! We explained to the little girl that the green and red berries (unripe) and the soft, squishy berries (overripe) had to be put aside, and the good berries were put in a large bucket.
She caught on quickly and sat happily by her dad, sorting with us.
And what did we do with the berries? We decided to try to make mulberry wine.
Maybe I’ll bring a bottle to share with my dad when I travel to visit him next time. I’m sure the wine won’t give him the same rush of nostalgia that picking them on a hot summer day and popping them into his mouth did, but maybe he’ll also appreciate his childhood treat in a new form.
And if not, then there’s more for me!