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  • Writer's pictureJocette Lee

The Village Mulberry Tree

In the midst of the pandemic, my husband and I have fled our apartment in Izmir, Turkey, and are temporarily living life with my in-laws in a small, Turkish village outside of Ephesus. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be in the village when nature starts to parade its colors, designs, fruits, and fragrances. Since we have arrived, we have seen our herb garden pop-up and expand, our bougainvillea plant grow to new heights and our grapevines produce new leaves each day. It is the season where nature in the village starts to show off and we are able to enjoy the fruits of its hibernation.

On the edge our land sits a mulberry (karadut) tree - it is so large and its branches stretch out almost inviting people to climb into its arms. In the past month, the tree has been producing so many mulberries that we can hardly keep up. Everyone from the village plays their part. They bring buckets, ladders, fruit picker poles, and eager hands. As people walk by, they pluck a couple of berries and with their fruit juice stained hands, plop the berry into their mouths and their face lights up. They make small talk about the health benefits of the berries as a way to take one step further in the delight of consuming the luscious mulberry.

The health benefits of mulberries are numerous, such as the available vitamins, antioxidants, and reduced cancer risk with consumption. However, that is not exactly the motivation to pick them by the bucket load. For me, there is nothing quite like fresh mulberry compote on my morning toast. I will keep picking them in bulk until the season ends so I can enjoy that juicy and bright flavor! To process the berries into compote, I rinse them in the sink while taking time to trim the stems as I cull through the bucket. I drop them into a pot, add some lemon juice and a spoonful of stevia (to reduce processed sugar) and just a splash of water to keep them from burning. With a watchful and patient eye, I stay close to the stovetop to smash and stir along the way. The end result is a thickened compote that I transfer to a mason jar and have ready for my breakfast spread. Last night, I served some kaymaklı (thick cream) Turkish ice cream and then spooned the mulberry jam over the cold cream. Obviously, this is now my favorite way to consume the berries.

Our family village is a farming community with olive, clementine and pomegranate orchards stretching for miles. Working in the gardens and fields is hard, intense work that leaves the villagers drained at the end of the day. However, the mulberry tree positioned on the periphery of the village square welcomes them back after long days and nearly drops a berry in their mouth as a reward for their labor. The delights of the tree are enjoyed by all - young, old, grumpy, or cheery - and during this pandemic season, it holds more significance as it unites the village community during an estranged time.

Originally written for @thetablecollab and posted here!


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