Our very favourite garden tree is our mulberry. It's the biggest in the food forest, planted 9 or so years ago, over Tiny Owlet's placenta. It grows generous amounts of fruit, provides cooling shade, juice for ink-making, leaves for tea and silk worm fodder, and a stunning autumn display as it's leaves turn yellow where the sun lands on them. Actually, all the plants in our perennial food forest are wonderful. They’re super low maintenance, and feed us huge amounts of food each year. We’re so glad we planted them when we did. If you’re strapped for time, but have some space in your garden for perennial food plants, throw some in and feed your family (friends and neighbours), for years to come. It’s well worth the investment. But back to the mulberry.
Last year, we made the mistake of not throwing a net over our mulberry tree. The tree had grown so much in the year prior, it outgrew the nets we had, and we naively thought there would be enough fruit for us and the blackbirds to share. We didn’t pick a single ripe mulberry.
So, this year we were prepared. And the extra rain we’ve had meant mulberries as far as the eye can see. The laden tree’s heavy branches are sweeping the ground, and every leaf has berries waiting underneath to be picked. Unfortunately the combination of wind, rain and heavy fruit mean the tree is almost lying horizontal at this point. It won't be the same beautiful upright tree, and the food forest is somewhat changed, but that's the adventure of gardening and tending to an ever-changing ecosystem. We’ve still been sneaking out to the garden to scoff and slurp on juicy mulberries all month - bright magenta juice staining our fingers and toes... And, of course, we've been putting some aside for winter.
Bottled mulberries for the cupboards for winter guzzling. Fresh berries and mulberry cordial to enjoy right now. We'll make some cordial into jelly and some fruit into jam. We've been playing with mulberry cordial recipes for a few years now, and here's our ultra-simple favourite. We make a habit of simplifying things, because we find we're more likely to find time for an easy recipe we can remember by heart. Mulberry Cordial
1kg mulberries 1L water 750g sugar 2 lemons 1. Place the mulberries in a large saucepan, with the water and sugar. 2. Add the zest and juice of the lemons 3. Place the pot over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. 4. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, continuing to stir when you remember. 5. Line a large bowl or jug with a fine mesh bag, cheesecloth or strainer while you wait for the pot to simmer. 6. Remove from the heat and pour into the mesh bag/strainer/cloth lined bowl.
7. Allow the liquid to drain from the fruit pulp. We like to use a mesh bag and suspend it from a kitchen cupboard handle over the bowl. Set the fruit pulp aside. 8. Use a funnel to pour the cordial into clean bottles. Sterilise the bottles first if you're going to store the cordial for a while. 9. Seal with lids and move to the fridge when cool if you're planning to enjoy the cordial over the next couple of weeks. Pasteurise the full bottles in a large pot of boiling water if you plan to store them for up to 12 months.
Enjoy your cordial mixed 1:4 parts water. Mulberry fizz is lovely if you have a Sodastream, and mulberry mixes well with alcoholic drinks, too. Use the fruit pulp (and lemon zest) in your favourite crumble, pie or muffin recipe. It's delicious added to an apple base filling. Alternatively, freeze it for smoothies or nice-cream, or for baking another day.
Happiest Mulberry season!
~ Lauren. xx