Messy mulberry trees grow all over our fair city, dropping their fruit all over the place and staining sidewalks, courtyards and innocent umbrellas. But the mulberry tree has a remarkable legacy that goes back thousands of years and has influenced trade and culture, legends and mythology from China, to Turkey, from the Roman Empire to an English Nursery Rhyme.
“Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning.”
The ancient Romans were crazy for mulberries, showcasing the fruit in elaborate feasts. In Ovid’s Tragedy Pyramus and Thisbe, the original Romeo and Juliet, the two ill -fated Babylonian lovers bleed to death under the shade of a mulberry tree, turning the white berries to crimson. The gods, moved by the tragedy, forever change the colour of the mulberry fruit to honour the forbidden love.
Mulberry trees originally came to Turkey thousands of years ago on the Silk Road from China; their leaves are a source of food for silkworms. This is one of the reasons that mulberry trees were imported to North America as well, but the silk industry in the U.S. never really caught on. Still, we have lots of these trees. And mulberry jams, wines, muffins and pies, so all is not lost. And happily for us, we have dried mulberries as well.
Dried Turkish Mulberries are not your everyday ingredient, but they are a surprisingly delightful dried fruit that are strangely addictive. The dried white Turkish Mulberries packaged by Navitas are organically grown, shaken from the trees and sun dried.
Known as “toot” in central Asia, dried mulberries are chewy little gems that have a myriad of uses. Mixed into granola, trail mix, or tumbled atop your favorite hot cereal, they can take the place of golden raisins, dried cranberries or chopped figs in bran muffins and pancakes and are not out of place on a cheese plate with an assortment of nuts.
Fresh mulberries have been used for centuries to make wine, and are literally steeped in folk medicine, thus gaining the moniker “Turkish Superfruit”, due to their high vitamin C content. Packed with iron, dried mulberries are also a good source of resveratrol, the anti-oxidant compound in red wine that is thought to protect against heart disease. In addition, mulberries are one of the few fruits considered to be a respectable source of protein-3 grams per ounce- and are rich in calcium and fiber as well.
The next time you come across that messy bit of sidewalk, the mulberry tree dropping its loot all over the place and gumming up your Louboutins, may you see the remarkable fruit in a whole new light.