I often dream about growing more of our own food. We have a few modest raised beds in our back yard and plant a selection of vegetables every year but usually with limited success. I’m not sure if this is down to my limited gardening expertise or the voracious squirrels we share our garden with.
Our house is on a corner lot, and as well as decent sized front and back yards features a steep L-shaped bank at the front and side that was already planted with a selection of plants, trees and shrubs when we moved in. As they have matured they have become a constant maintenance challenge, with much pruning, trimming and in some cases uprooting needed to stop them from taking the place over. What little time I have to spend in the garden is often dedicated to this rather than nurturing edible crops.
Luckily, mother nature has intervened this year to give me something to eat and drink that doesn’t rely on my limited horticultural skills.
At the back of our garden are a few nondescript young trees that for years we paid little attention to. They gradually got bigger and last year for the first time we noticed a handful of berries on the trees. A quick bit of online research revealed that we were in fact the proud owners of five mulberry trees. Last year’s crop was small and we were beaten to the fruit by birds and squirrels. This year is a different matter, and the trees are dripping with loads of berries.
It is still a challenge to get the fruit before the critters do, and as the berries seem to ripen unevenly I have been venturing out each evening to collect all the ripe berries I can and then freezing them on a baking sheet until I got a big enough batch to experiment with.
Luckily, to augment the mulberry harvest I also have a fine crop of wild blackberries. Most years I get a pitiful crop from the cultivated blackberries that I planted myself but the brambles on a neglected piece of land at the back of my yard positively flourish.
This mixture is left to infuse for a few days and then strained. The resulting liquid then has sugar added and is gently heated to yield a thick, sweet, sour, fruity concentrate that makes a refreshing drink when diluted with water or can be used to add a burst of vibrant fruit flavor to a cocktail.
Mulberry and Blackberry Shrub
8oz fresh mulberries
8oz fresh blackberries
1 cup distilled white vinegar
Place the berries in a glass or ceramic jar, crush lightly and add the vinegar.
Leave to steep for 4 days, stirring or shaking daily.
After 4 days strain the fruit. Then add the sugar: I use a 2:1 liquid to sugar ratio but you can adjust to your personal taste. After straining I had around 2 cups of liquid so I added a cup of sugar to it and then gently heated it in a pan over medium heat, stirring regularly until the sugar is dissolved.
Once the shrub is cool, bottle it and store in the fridge.