And a few days ago, strolling through a market in Zhongshan, I saw pints of fresh seasonal red bayberries, which I almost bought. Then I saw what was next to them. Lo, what are these? They looked like blackberries, but oblong. "First of the season!" exclaimed another customer to her husband. I typed the Chinese characters from the sign into my translator.
Growing up, I always associated mulberries with posies, pickled peppers, and curds of whey; as in, they were just the stuff of nursery rhymes. Growing up in suburbia, I never saw any mulberries in supermarkets, and assumed they were just the figment of some clever 14th-century storyteller's imagination. How wrong I was about everything!
There are 3 main kinds of mulberries: black (the kind I bought), white (grown in China and used as food for silkworms), and red (available in the American Northeast, which I apparently missed because I did not grow up in a rural area.) I first tried mulberries in the form of a juice from my local Carrefour, and it was so overly sweetened I had to water it down. The fruit is also used as a natural food coloring. But I hadn't seen fresh mulberries until now because the season is so short.
Despite the appearance, they taste more like raspberries, with more of a subtle sweetness than blackberries. Every 10th or 12th berry was sour enough to make me pucker up, but couldn't stop me from eating more.
I confess. I was going to create some sort of cold spoon dessert to celebrate spring. But then I kept picking and, before long, had eaten the entire two pints. (Insert sheepish look.) So mulberry panna cottas and granitas will have to wait. Until then, if you happen to find mulberries near you, try these recipes I dug up:
Mulberry and Cinnamon Cake from Cook (Almost) Anything
Mulberry Bramble from Sloshed!
Mulberry and Vanilla Muffins from Morsels & Musings
Mulberry Sorbet from Garlic Breath