Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mulberry Stains and Scouting Out Serviceberries

Membership has its privileges. For the past few years, I've served on the neighbor's advisory committee for the Montgomery College TP/SS campus a block south of me. So when I saw the college had planted a small grove of Serviceberries last year, I kept my eye on them and when I saw them ripen en masses this week I shot off a quick email to college provost Brad Stewart to ask permission to pick them. I got a few stares by passing students as I picked and photographed with alternate hands. (Warning: these berries can stain.) The birds have not yet discovered this treasure. More for me! I came home with a cup each of ultra-sweet Serviceberries to snack on. For those who have never tasted one, image a milder blueberry. Last week at AHS River Farm, I saw they had a monstrous Serviceberry in their garden. I'll be back there this Sunday for the Community Green event and maybe they'll let me have a nibble from that tree as well.

In my urban foraging this week, I've also been picking mulberries. They are also very sweet and juicy, more grape-like in flavor to me than akin to the raspberries and blackberries they resemble. I pick from the trees in common areas and in my 'hood (East Silver Spring near the DC border) they are certainly abundant. They are easy to find, just look down at the mulberry stained sidewalks covered in squished berries and try not to slip, slide, or fall. From back alleys to abandoned auto lots, the mulberry tree is nothing if not opportunistic. Thanks to the birds pooping out seeds and staining every bit of area sidewalk. I've been yanking out mulberry tree seedlings every time I go out to weed and they are some long-rooted, stubborn suckers that like to wedge themselves in the most inconvenient spots like deep under a thorny rose bush or under a large rock. If anyone wants a mulberry seedling, come on by!

I'm sharing some photos here of both berries that I took a la Martha Stewart Living lighting style and I'm posting it around lunch-time to encourage maximum salivating. If you have also been doing some urban foraging, drop me a post here and share.


graduallygreener said...

I have also been picking mulberries. I never really noticed how many mulberry trees there are around DC, but now I see them everywhere! I used my food dehydrator to dry the mulberries, which I think I'll use in baking. Maybe mulberry scones!

WashingtonGardener said...

Oooh don't have a dehydrator but that is a very interesting idea -- I'm all about the muffins, waffles, and breakfast breads.

My only ambition was smashing some up and using as a sauce on pound cake or ice cream.

The Natural Capital said...

Yes! Mulberries and serviceberries are the official beginning of summer for me! But with all this rain I haven't made it out to collect mulberries -- in past years I've found rain makes them soggy and tasteless. Has anyone noticed that this year?

WashingtonGardener said...

Natural Cap, you are right, the Mulberries are a little water-y this year, but I find the dark ones still full of flavor, the pale varieties not so much.

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Anonymous said...

I live in DC and I'm looking for mulberry tree locations for picking.

1. Does anyone know if there is a website that shows the location of various types of trees?

2. Is there an agriculture office that maintains such information in DC?

Thanks in advance for any help.

WashingtonGardener said...

Anon - there is a new site for registering urban trees open for picking (aka Urban Foraging)- either on public land or the private land owners post and give permission. It seens new so I don't see much up there yet. It is:

Personally, I can't go a block in any direction from my hose withOUT stepping on a mulberry covered sidewalk. I'd look at sites that are along bike paths, walking trails, etc.

Shelly Solomon Art said...

;_; I haven't seen a single tree!!! Maybe I just have a hard time finding them because I finally found service berries, apples, cherries, and persimmons but no mulberry trees. Could anyone point me in a good direction? I want tree but I have no idea if I'd actually like the flavor.

Leslie David said...

There used to be mulberry trees in Fairfax City