To the sericulturist, the mulberry tree is often just a source of leaves to feed the silkworms, but to me, and perhaps to many of you, the mulberry tree is a haven of nostalgic childhood memories. I vividly remember the wizened old mulberry tree at my eldest cousin Meerakka’s home, at Cochin. Right opposite their house, across the road, was a walled in compound with an iron gate, and inside, a beautiful little world of fruit trees. Of these, of course, the one that attracted us children most was the mulberry tree.
Old and sturdy, with sweeping branches all around, it was laden with the delicious little fruit that first turned red, and then dark purple, almost black, when ripe. We would pluck the mulberries and enjoy them to our hearts’ content. The sharp tangy sweetness seems to dance on my tongue whenever I remember those days. Meerakka’s younger sons, Kishore and Mannu, would climb up the little tree and collect the fruit from the upper branches. We would rub the dark pinkish red juice on our lips – delicious, natural lipstick! We used to call the fruits muye phale (the ant fruit) and the mulberry tree was named muyi rooku (the ant tree).
Later, Meerakka sold off that property and moved to Ernakulam city. I could enjoy the mulberries no more. Years passed, I got married and had children. Then came a move from my husband’s coastal town of Thalassery to the beautiful mountains of Wayanad. We collected many mulberry plants from nurseries and planted them in our garden, but alas, when they grew up, they turned out to be the hybrid type, which produces leaves copiously but hardly any fruit. My heart sorrowed, and sorely missed the old variety.
One day, my husband spotted three stunted plants sitting in an unkempt corner of an old nursery. By evening, he had brought them home and with great joy, we planted and watered them. In a couple of months, the first fruits appeared. They were medium sized and absolutely delicious! Now, each tree yields an average of a kilo of fruit daily, for 3 weeks in each season. I make lots of mulberry jam and store it for use all round the year. The taste, the color, and the texture of mulberry jam easily surpasses that of any other jam. You will love the slightly crunchy, grainy texture of the minute mulberry seeds, and the appetizing, mouthwatering tanginess of the jam as you bite into your sandwich. It’s great to pack for picnics, and children just love it in their lunchboxes. Here is the recipe. Do make and enjoy!