(everybody sing along)….the monkey chased the weasel. The monkey thought it was all in fun…POP! Goes the weasel. Please tell me you know that song, that you sang along (at least in your head) and it gave you a nice little chuckle as it did for me. You see this picture? It’s a mulberry bush (well, ok, tree). And I went all around it on Tuesday (although there were no monkeys or weasels, sadly).
You see, I was being a bit of a blogging hypocrite. I told you how great and cheap it is to pick fresh berries, but I have this tree in my front yard, and I’m ashamed to admit, it’s been years since I picked any of the berries off of it! And they are plentiful…and it’s a shame to let the birds eat them all (and then mess up the sidewalk, it’s quite lovely). So Tuesday, I determined to go out there and pick some berries. Let me tell you, it’s a good upper body workout with your arms in the air all that time!
I managed to get about a quart (I could have got more if I had bothered to get a ladder and spend a little more time out there), but I figured this was a good amount for my first effort. These guys are SUPER juicy and quite delicate, and fall off the tree very easily (come check out the ground below if you don’t believe me).
How juicy you ask? I give you Exhibit A – the aftermath. This was before washing, but even after a wash, some of the purple stayed behind.
So what to do with all those mulberries? They do have one caveat – a small stem that needs to be removed before they can be eaten, which is a bit of a pain. I have plans to stir some into my morning yogurt with strawberries and cherries, but have yet to do so (will keep you posted).
My first mulberry project was inspired by my sister, who makes lovely syrups for soda (even though she doesn’t drink carbonated beverages) with a variety of fruits. You can do this with almost any fruit (fresh or frozen) depending on what’s in season. And since I was straining the stuff anyway, I didn’t have to de-stem…win win!
All you do is put the washed fruit in a pot with some water and sweetener of your choice (Splenda for this girl). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat until syrupy and the fruit have released their juices (about 10 minutes for the mulberries).
This picture shows what the berries look like after they’ve simmered and released their juices. Then just put the berries over a fine-meshed strainer and press through into a bowl/container to get all the syrup, and discard the solids. You will be surprised at how little liquid you end up with, considering the variety of fruit you began with. Look at the picture…see what I mean? That’s all I got!
Like I said, you can use this syrup to make your own flavoured sodas. Just pour some into a glass and add sparkling water. It would also be delightful on ice cream or other desserts. The mulberry really makes a nice deep purple colour (and all over the kitchen too….a lot of wiping up goes on)!
Since this is kind of a garden-themed post, I thought I’d share more exciting garden news with you – I picked my first pepper! One of my poblanos (which are large, green, and spicy, but not EXTREMELY hot) I used it in a tasty lunch on Tuesday – a Mexican stuffed pepper with a salad on the side (with lettuce and cilantro from my garden also).
I broiled the pepper for a few minutes on each side to get it softened and charred a bit. For my filling, I sautéed a bit of garlic, onion and sweet peppers, then added 1/2 cup soy crumbles, salsa, salt and pepper, fresh cilantro and some Mexican seasonings (Epicure nacho cheese dip mix, cumin….I think that was it). I stuffed this in the pepper, then topped with a few tablespoons light Tex-Mex shredded cheese and baked until melted. I finished it all off with fresh cilantro and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
My southwest salad dressing had a bit of oil, salsa, red wine vinegar, light BBQ sauce, fat-free Italian salad dressing, chipotle mustard (another US purchase), and a touch of sweetener….it was quite yummy, and complemented the flavour of the pepper nicely. All in all, a nice garden-fresh lunch.
What local ingredients (from your garden or not) have you been enjoying lately?