In her book, Honey from a Weed, Patience Gray says the following about her time on the Greek Island of Naxos, "...during the summer we would be pressed to visit a fig or mulberry tree in the next valley and we were expected to eat our fill on the spot..."
I have written before about my father in law's garden and of how it is like an idyllic little slice of Greece in urban Sydney. In the corner of my father in law's garden there is a huge, impressive mulberry tree. The trunk is painted white, just like the mulberry trees that line the streets and gardens of many Greek villages. From one of the big strong branches of the mulberry tree there hangs a simple swing made of rope and wood. It has been witness to the games and stories of two generations of family, enjoying the spring and summer sunshine.
The leaves of the mulberry tree spread out, over the garage roof top and across the fence - so passers by can help themselves to a little forage when the season permits. Every Spring, just like Patience Gray, Mr K and I head to the corner of the garden armed with baskets, old clothes and shoes, to take our fill from the mulberry tree. Many mulberries go into the basket, but the tell tale signs of a spring time feast are stained across our lips, in a bright magenta grins and our hands tell the same story.
Of the mulberries that make it to our baskets this year, half went into our new Fowler's preserver - bottled up for another season in a very, very light sugar syrup. The other half went into make a sweet and tangy mulberry and apple jam - packed with zippy lemon zest. It was wonderful to finally break out the beautiful big bronze copper preserving pan that I had carefully lugged all the way home from my recent trip to Bourgogne.
Even though we had taken our fill from the mulberry tree - we couldn't wait until winter to open up a jar of the mulberry and apple jam. The following weekend, our cultures combined with the lovely Irish (and English, Scottish and Welsh...) tradition of afternoon tea. On a bright sunny spring afternoon we opened up a jar to enjoy along with tea, scones and fluffy whipped cream.
Over tea and tasting the mulberry jam, my mum remembered taking her fill of spring and summer mulberries, with her older brother, from the tree that stood in her parents garden. The tree may have been short lived - the birds would eat the berries and stain the freshly washed clothes hanging on the line - but mum's memories of those juicy spring and summer mulberries were not. And while he didn't have a mulberry tree, my dad remembered venturing down into "Dingley Dell" where wild blackberries, with sharp thorns (and a few snakes), stood a long side a little creek. Some of the berries would be picked and eaten and some would be, just like our mulberries, taken home for my grandmother to make wild blackberry jam. Washing up the tea cups, Mr K and I mused on how a basket of little berries could bring two cultures together, intertwined with so many memories.