A couple of days ago, Sarah, over at Sassying It Up mentioned that she'd bought a punnet of mulberries for the very first time.
My thoughts went back about 37 years to when we were living at Enoggera, in Brisbane. Our back yard fence separated the yard from the long, long driveway and carparking area of the Army Base where my husband was stationed. In a corner of the yard was a huge old mulberry tree.
Primary school aged kids would sometimes knock on our door and ask if they could have leaves for their silkworms. Of course I always said yes.
Many times they didn't bother knocking and just cut through the carpark and took whatever leaves they could reach.
I didn't mind, the tree was huge, plenty of leaves for everyone's silkworms.
Is that a primary school rite of passage? Silkworms in shoeboxes?
The mulberries grew by the thousands, beginning as small green buds, gradually becoming larger and pinker, then darkening as they ripened fully.
I'd sit the baby underneath wearing nothing and let her eat berries that she could reach. Mostly she just played with the leaves while I hung washing or took it back down again, dry and warm from the sun.
Our second summer there, hubby and his mate, Moose, decided they'd make mulberry wine.
Under the stairs at the back of the house became the gathering place for empty and washed beer bottles and a half dozen buckets newly bought just for picking the mulberries.
The weekend rolled around, as it does, and they were out there bright and early, picking, picking, picking.
Bucket after bucket of berries were rinsed under the garden tap, then brought inside to be "sugared".
I knew nothing about making wine and neither did they.
They decided the berries needed to be cooked, strained and bottled, then left under the house in the cool to somehow turn into wine.
In the cool??? Brisbane in the summer.......
Well, they made a huge mess of the kitchen, but finally the cooked berries had been strained into other clean buckets, then funneled into the bottles. They had no way to cap these, something both had forgotten about, so a few empty screw top bottles were found and quickly washed out, then the fruit mix was transferred.
They did this themselves, because Moose's wife and I were having nothing to do with it, apart from keeping our babies out of the way and cleaning up the kitchen after the men had "wiped it down".
How long does it take to turn fruit into wine?
The stuff sat under the house and started to ferment. Bubble, bubble, bubble....
Remember there had been no sterilising of bottles, no careful temperature taking, not even a leaflet on how to make wine had been read.
Still, after a couple of weeks, they got a little impatient and decided to taste it.
I don't know if any alcohol had developed in the mix or not, but they tasted, pronounced it "not bad" and kept tasting. There was beer involved too, (there always was with those two), and by nightfall the two of them were as drunk as they could possibly be and still stand upright.
But the next day?
Sicker than they'd ever been.
Good thing it was Sunday and neither of them was on duty.
After that, the mulberries were left for the birds and for the neighbourhood kids to have mulberry fights with.
The Jewel Fool
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