My morning sortie to gather a bowlful of mulberries for breakfast (actually, forget the bowl. Mulberries go directly to mouth) has suddenly got much harder. Autumn’s in the air as I traipse across the dewy grass. The mulberries are fewer.
This isn’t just the fault of the weather. We have some new residents in the garden. A family of moorhens: mum, dad, and five chicks. They like mulberries too. The windfalls that used to be mine, all mine, are now theirs, all theirs. But who could begrudge such charming tenants?
Mrs. Moorhen and Number One Chick.
Chicks in a hurry
Anyway, I suddenly realised that if we were going to have our much talked-of mulberry gin in time for Christmas, we needed to act. We had a houseful of helpers. Not just Malcolm, but Emily and her boyfriend Miquel, over from Barcelona.
Out came the bowls. Out came the small steps. Out came the team. We stripped the tree of any berries that were ripe enough to fall into our hands, as the moorhen chicks cheeped and protested from their lair in the flowerbed.
The rest was easy. Wash the berries. Half fill an empty bottle with gin. Poke berries into bottle. Add sugar. Argue about whether to follow the recipe that suggests adding a handful of roasted almonds or not. Decide to leave almonds out today, but add them to the next batch. Screw cap on bottle. Shake. Place in cupboard with note to self to shake bottle daily for a couple of weeks, then wait for months. That’s it. Tidy up. Before Christmas we’ll strain off the gin, re-bottle it … and look forward to sampling it on Christmas Day.
Or … if you’re on our Christmas present list, you might get a bottle too.
See this tree? I look at it every day, from the study window. As trees go, it’s not so special to look at. But for two months in summer it gives satisfaction to three households, by providing them with mulberries, day after day after day.
Although they grow on trees, mulberries are a bit like loganberries, or a cross between raspberries and blackberries. They’re tart, yet sweet, and very moreish indeed. I can’t pass the tree without scavenging on the lawn for a handful to eat.
I collect a dishful every morning to put on my cereal. We add them to summer pudding, to yoghurt, to ice cream. We bake with them. We make syrups, cordials and mulberry gin with them. And the tree goes on and on, producing more and more fruits, every day from July to September.
The birds ignore them. We don’t. Such a satisfying job, collecting our daily ration of free fruit.
Here’s a recipe I tried out this week. It’s adapted from one of Nigel Slater’s reliably tasty offerings. No mulberries? Poor you. Use raspberries, tayberries, loganberries or blackberries instead. They’ll be good too.
Mulberry and apricot cake
175 g. butter
175 g. golden caster sugar
c. 200 g. apricots
170 g. mulberries
175 g. self-raising flour
100 g. ground nuts – I used a mixture of walnuts and almonds. Hazelnuts are good too.