mulberries

Wednesday June 22, 2016

The taste of a mulberry takes me right back under the shade of the enormous mulberry tree at my grandparents house.  It’s thick arching limbs were perfect for climbing.  However, there was no need to climb to get more than your fill of berries.  The ends of the limbs draped down almost right to the ground, with free ranging chickens right underneath gobbling up the carpet of berries that covered the ground beneath the tree.

The taste of a mulberry is foreign to most, which is revealing, as the trees are native to this area.  It’s taste harkens back to before our food system groomed our palate to desire only the fruits that grow in Florida’s orchards or California’s Central Valley.  It brings us back to a time before many of the native or lesser known fruits that grow well in our climate had been forgotten.

Eating a more sustainable, seasonal, locally produced, organic diet will require some branching out when looking for fruity flavors.  It’s just not sustainable to provide the same three berries (raspberries, strawberries, & blueberries) to everyone all the time.  Learning how to preserve our local harvest can help give us access to more local fruits year round.  Also embracing some of the lesser known fruits can bring more healthy sweetness into our lives; fruits like the mulberries, saskatoons, currants, & gooseberries we’re growing for our CSA members.

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Also berries are notoriously fragile, meaning that most berries are harvested by hand rather than machines.  Fruits that are machine harvested sell for much cheaper, so often large corporate berry farms have had to cut labor costs for their fruits to be competitive at market.  The main cost is passed on to migrant workers who are pitifully under-paid ($0.50/hr).  Many of whom have left their native countries because violence has driven them from homeland, or lack of economic opportunities has left them homeless & hungry.  Working in the fields of California & Florida illegally (it’s also important to note the corporations are also illegally employing them, & even recruiting them to come from their home countries) they have little voice or recourse to correct this injustice.

Large berry corporations like Driscoll’s (whose berries fill the produce sections of Tops, Wegmans, & even our local co-ops) have been driving the price of berries down by their so-called “cost saving measures”.  Now smaller berry farmers can’t stay competitive & end up getting gobbled up by the larger corporation, which in turn makes the problem worse as it gives Driscoll’s more of a share of the berry market & more ability to drive down prices.

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This is where our supermarket berries come from, which is why the organic farming movement is calling people to boycott Driscoll’s berries.  Instead turn to the diverse & delicious local alternatives that are now beginning to grow all around us.

So, in the end, I guess mulberries also taste like justice!

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