In Madison, one of the things that spells summer most centrally (in addition to the lakes and bikes and farmers' markets and frisbee) is the mulberries! (you can't spell "mulberries" without s-u-m-e-r).

I first discovered these sweet finger-staining berries just outside our own home, growing on a couple of trees within a hundred feet of our place, and immediately called my dad to ask if they were edible. I described the trees they grew on and the way they detached with the soft green stems still intact, and he said these were indeed the edible mulberries (or shelkovitsa in Russian). So, I filled my mouth with them, and took some home to make a mulberry crisp out of.

Over the next couple of summers, Justin and I stopped by these trees every time we biked home, always staining our fingers purple in the process.

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and so our beloved mulberry trees were chopped down last summer. We speculated that the city had ordered their removal because they stain the sidewalks black with the crushed and fallen berries.

Somehow, life continued, but we had to seek our mulberry pleasures farther afield. So, this week when our moms visited, we hit up some of my favorite secret berry spots, and picked until our own hands looked like this:

Delicious fruit for free!

But then! For a final, happy chapter to this story, yesterday, I ended up taking a slightly different route home from our bus stop, and as I walked down the sidewalk, I saw the telltale black, seedy mess under my feet. I looked up, and there I found the glorious hanging branches of the mulberry tree, filled with huge, juicy berries that were still there for the taking!  Apparently, one of the trees in one of our favorite spots had not been chopped down, but we had failed to notice this all summer, because we hadn't passed by this spot!

So, now our desserts for the next few weeks are all planned out. And all it will take is a short walk from our front door to the beautiful mulberry tree.

May you all seek and find free berries in your own backyards.


  1. there was a mulberry tree in the front yard at catfish road for most of my childhood. it was also our "picture" tree where most of our family pictures were taken. we had to cut it down a few years ago when it became broken and diseased. we spent so much time trying to beat the birds to the fruit...and trying to get each other to eat the green, not yet ripe fruit. i really miss it!

  2. do you have any recipe recommendations? we have a HUGE mullberry tree on our block, and are new to them... i would love some ideas for how to best use them!

  3. Hi Stephanie--We usually make it all the way through our mulberries by eating them raw, and baking them into crisps. They're especially good with rhubarb, since they're oh-so-sweet. Mulberry-apple-rhubarb crisps are some of our favorites, and we typically follow the crisp recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I've also seen a couple of mulberry jam recipes that I think would be fun to try. You could probably easily freeze a bunch for use in smoothies and muffins throughout the winter (substitute for blueberries or blackberries in recipes). Let me know what you come up with!


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