Monday, June 25th, 2007

June Jubes

Remember how I told you that at the end of June, the berries in Prospect Park were due to be ripe for the picking? Apparently not, since you've left me ...

Remember how I told you that at the end of June, the berries in Prospect Park were due to be ripe for the picking? Apparently not, since you’ve left me bushes full of them. Or — perhaps — I suppose I could have tried to describe where in the park these bushes were. Ah well. My oversight. Tee-hee.

Speaking of crops in the unlikeliest of big cities, I’m fascinated by this BBC News article, which describes a “vertical farming” project that scientists at Columbia University have conceptualized for downtown Manhattan. Just think what wonders it could do for 100-mile dieters! It’s a long shot, but if you agree that it may be a good idea, then blog about it, or help spread the word. Then afterward, don’t forget to vote for your favorite New York farmer before November.

I like to think of summer as a time when I shed the winter flab garnered through creamy pounds of pasta and beefy stews to shield against an intolerably cold city and morph into fit-as-fiddle me, the welcome alter-ego who will sometimes forego ice cream for just the fresh berry topping. The fit-as-fiddle me emerges from shellacked-in-flab me by sweating in the sun every spare chance she can. This is exacerbated by biking laps in Prospect Park on the weekends — and, probably, eradicated by drinking cases of beer, as well. Oh well. I love the summer here.

So as I was biking said laps in Prospect Park this weekend, it was a beautiful moment when I sped past a certain spot and my thoughts of food suddenly collided with the memory of the berries — the berries! I skidded off the main path and found the bushes on a small walking trail in no time. Most of their berries were just turning a bright cherry red hue, underripe for the black raspberries that they were. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera on hand, but if I had, I would have caught many images of one swollen, ripe purple berry at the center of a cluster of lighter pink-to-red berries on one bramble. In another week, these berries will be at their prime. But for now, I managed to pluck a range of deep-red to black pearl-black ones and tossed them into a rinsed-out yogurt drink container.

Oh, and people did think I was nuts.

“Why are you picking them berries?” A voice behind me called. It belonged to a teenage boy sitting by the pond with a teenage girl. I had to look beyond a low wire fence and cluster of bushes to locate it.

“Because they’re good,” I told him.

“You can eat them?”

“Yeah — they’re raspberries. See?” I tried to get close enough to the fence to toss a berry or pass it over to the couple, but they quickly shook their heads indicating they didn’t want it.

“I was just wondering if you could eat them, that’s all.”

As I continued collecting ripe berries in my yogurt container, I could hear the couple musing to themselves on the incredulity of eating something found in the wild. I can’t remember exactly what they said, but I heard something like, “if I were lost and starving, like in these woods, then maybe… maybe.”

Hm, I think that’s what I’ll call the tart I make with these berries tonight: Lost and Starving Delight.

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10 Responses to “June Jubes”

  1. Nancy says:

    I grew up in Ohio with mulberry trees. It is such a summertime childhood memory being out in the woods with my friends and spotting a few mulberries turning big and black on their branches. We would go running to our moms, begging them for old sheets so that we could spread them out underneath the trees. We would take turns being the shakers up in the branches or the eaters on the sheets below. Are there any recipes for mulberries? Are there mulberry trees in New York?

  2. mark says:

    Love the verticle farm idea. Especially when you see the large dish on top of the building…you broadcast live images of plants as the grow (for those really addicted ‘reality tv’ fans). Very cool idea!

  3. cathy says:

    Thank you so much for the memories, Nancy! Yes, there are mulberry trees in New York — they sometimes line the sidewalks where I live in Brooklyn and the berries get mashed under everyone’s feet for a few weeks of the spring. I think mostly squirrels eat them, because those berries can be so hard to reach most of the time. I don’t know of any recipes for them specifically, but wouldn’t mind trying them out in pies and other desserts!

  4. erin says:

    Yay! I am moving to NYC in August after 5 years in LA and I’m already worried about produce withdrawal. I know you can get good stuff in NY, but it won’t be the same. But foraging berries? Awesome. I’m going to be a poor grad student, so I imagine I’ll check your blog frequently!

  5. Yvo says:

    Wow, nice. I’m allergic to raspberries but it sounds so fun to go berry picking!!!

  6. masticator says:

    I was wondering who picked all the berries. These are truly the rarest of the rare – wild black raspberries. But there are also red raspberries in the park(many near the Nethermead and along Center Drive(?)) that will be ripe later in the summer.
    Also, for those interested, there is a large mulberry tree on 19th St near Prospect Park West(right above the Prospect Expy), positioned for easy harvesting.

  7. W says:

    there’s a mulberry tree right by a busy intersection, on a corner where hundreds of people walk past where I live in Jersey City. My friend discovered it last summer, biggest problem is the massive amounts of road dirt you have to wash off them! Easy to spot though, look for the black stained sidewalk and birds in an eating frenzy!

  8. cathy says:

    I was staring at a mulberry tree just yesterday at McCarren Park Pool and the berries were taunting me as they were too high to reach. These are great finds, though — masticator, I’ll trade some black ones for some red??

  9. vanessa (of vanesscipes) says:

    Wow! it’s so cool that you picked these berries! I was once wounded by a raspberry patch in winter when my sled found it’s way smack dab in the center. but I don’t hold it against the berries :)

    Have you read “Plenty” or “The
    100 Mile Diet” by Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon? They’re on my to-read list.

    I recommend Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. Fab!

  10. Marsha says:

    Mulberry trees are a favorite of mine. There was one near my house when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn. My sisters and I didn’t know what this tree was. With the intrepid foolishness of youth, we simply picked the berries every summer and ate them.

    When I was older, I went to someone in the Farmer’s Market and wanted to know what this tree and fruit were. The man asked me to describe it and I couldn’t; I hadn’t taken note of the details. I found the tree, peeled off a thin branch with the leaves and some of the berries and brought it back. He told me it was a mulberry tree.

    Later independent research revealed there are three kinds of mulberries: red, black and white, with black producing the sweetest berries. White mulberry trees make excellent nesting homes for silkworms and cause them to produce the best silk in the world (no one knows why).

    I have found various places in the city that have mulberry trees of all three colors and flavors. My bookclub has a member who takes interested parties on mulberry foraging near a river and, boy, do we clean up.

    If I can gather enough this year, I’m making jam. I’ve already made blackberry and strawberry jam. Mulberry would be a great addition. :D

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