Tuesday, June 28, 2011

berry explosion

It's the most wonderful time of the year - when free foods hang heavy in the breeze, ripe for the picking. In 2010, I lived in Rhode Island and our mulberries were out about three weeks earlier than they are around here. The branches on the tree I've been stalking and calling 'the motherlode' are weighed down so heavily by mulberries that I could never hope to pick all the ones I can reach. I don't have big mulberry dreams this year; last year I made mulberry muffins, granola, yogurt, ice cream, and fruit sauce. I just want to pick enough to take home and eat later in the day. The motherlode tree produces by far the sweetest-tasting mulberries of any tree I've found in the past three years. Mulberries can sometimes taste tart or even watery-bland, but these have a sweet zing to them, especially when they're still warm from the sunshine.

This year's foraging discovery is the serviceberry. The new Watertown Community Path has several serviceberry trees planted along the edges. I've been watching them for about three months. I wouldn't have looked at them twice except for the fact that whoever planted them left the nursery tags on. When I read "serviceberry - edible fruit," I rushed home to do some research and find out how to tell when the fruit would be ripe. Now that the blueberry-like fruits are darkening from purple to blue, I make sure to take a container with me every day. They are sort of hard to pick, because the stem comes off with the berry a lot of the time, and they don't really grow in clusters but are scattered all over the bush. It takes some nimble twisting to get the berries and not the stems, but it's totally worth it. Serviceberries taste sweet and full, like they might be distant, wilder cousins of the blueberry.  Because serviceberries have seeds that seem large proportional to the size of the berries themselves, it makes for a chewier eating experience, and I find myself spitting out seeds that separate easily. I truly enjoyed watching the green bushes ripen this spring, because each one had just a few leaves that burst into oranges and yellows, and because the berries themselves progress through a magnificent spectrum of colors on their way to ripeness. I have never seen a lovelier or more insistent magenta in nature than I have witnessed of late on the serviceberry bushes.

On a biking adventure to Fresh Pond with a friend yesterday, Flash and friend and I found some likely black raspberry plants to which we shall certainly return upon their ripening. We also found a wildflower meadow thrumming with the wingbeats of birds and bugs alike -- I can't wait to return with my binoculars. Well, that's the berry-roundup for June 2011 - thanks for stopping by!