Islay Summit (I): The Foragers

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As a few people might have realized I was invited this year (to my utmost surprise and joy) to participate in the Forager’s Summit on the Hebridean island of Islay, on the West Coast of Scotland. For five days we explored the faery coasts of the island, basing ourselves at Academy House at the Bruichladdich distillery, where The Botanist gin is refined and produced on the same site as some of the finest whisky the island has to offer. It is not easy to concentrate my writing about this experience, so I choose for now to discuss the people – not so much the plants – whom I encountered on the island.

Early on as I began to consciously study the art of plant identification (or orientation), it became apparent fairly quickly that, without a sense for plant families, it would be hard work finding my way around in the world of wild plants. It took a much longer time, exactly up until the Summit on Islay, to realize that, as a forager, I seem to have been working under unnecessarily lonely circumstances without the benefit of an extended community of any kind. I hope my time spent with these people will remedy that concern in the future.

Our group of foragers consisted of wild food experimentalists, teachers and enthusiasts whose geographical range spans three continents. Though it will probably read much like a contributor’s section of a publication, I think many people will benefit from reading into the activities of these dedicated foragers from around the world.

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Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods works closely with the Botanist Academy on Islay and has been foraging and hosting foraging events for over twenty years, ‘since [he] was an over-confident eighteen-year-old’. During our week stay, his enthusiasm for everything wild was ceaseless, and Mark is a forager who can get almost as excited about the presence of non-edible species as he can about a good crop of pepper dulse (Osmundia pinnatifida) (‘it’s not my favourite seaweed, not even my favourite wild edible; it’s more like my favourite thing, ever.’ Mark’s blog entry about this seaweed is the first of around 120,000 Google hits). His knowledge of and relationship with the flora celtica is deeply-involved, and he is both generous and unhurried in his manner of sharing what he has learned.

 

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Craig Worrall of Edible Leeds works all over the British Isles teaching and giving wild food workshops, and while he is enamoured with the West Coast of Scotland and its coastal abundance, he cares deeply about the wild spaces of West Yorkshire and its surrounding National Parks. As we foraged on Islay, Craig’s flights of recipe brain-storming were telling of his years of wild food experimentation.

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Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods works in Herefordshire where she produces her range of fine foraged products. Her understanding of scent and flavour were way beyond anything I could even detect with many of the things we encountered on Islay. She is passionate about integrating organic and wild food into our lives and is sensitive to the difficulties of doing either of these things with either economic restraints or the time restraints of running a family, or both.

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Roushanna Grey grew up in Cape Town, fell in love with the flora of coastal South Africa, and divides her life between her obsession with wild plants and seaweeds and also the cultivated plants grown at her Good Hope Gardens Nursery. She was in her element on the coastal walks on Islay, down in the rock crevices of a sheltering bay, showing us the variety of ‘sea vegetables’ to be found, some of which were native to her own Cape Point.

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Ellen Zachos has worked worldwide educating groups on wild plants and has a history of roof-top gardening in New York. Her knowledge of plants is truly encyclopaedic, and several times on Islay we nerded completely out about respective non-native species that were of special interest to us both. She is the author of several books on wild plants including Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat, which includes species regularly found in the garden and even in city parks and open spaces.

As foragers are seemingly often generous with their treasures, there is a wealth of foraging literature to be had just from visiting the websites of these great people, and perhaps given the great geographic range they cover together, there will be lots of information about the flora of very specific ecosystems, especially in Roushanna and Mark’s writings.

That’s a little about the people. Coming next, some of the plants I was lucky enough to meet on Islay.

 

 

 

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Gleaning for Resilience: A Lesson in Mermaid Economics

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Here in Berlin-Brandenburg I tend to judge the start of the foraging season proper by the arrival of the first tender shoots of our regionally-abundant wild leeks. Walking several new foraging routes this week it was clear that the time has come again, and as at the beginning of every new foraging year, I find myself taking stock of many of the experiences which I made last season trying to work and live mainly through foraging and its related activities.

For those of you who aren’t in the mood for long-winded reflections on the purpose and problems of foraging in today’s day and age, just know that foraging walks will be resuming as of March, and up-to-date information is available via the Facebook page. Furthermore, this year, Grunewald Foraging will be hosting a range of workshops, with guest co-ordinators from a host of different backgrounds, geared towards exploring wild food in the kitchen, and also experimenting with wild natural materials, an area that tends to get overlooked when concentrating only on the edibility and not the (at least from a humanistic point of view) holistic usefulness of plants. More information on foraging walks and workshops, cast an eye this way towards the end of the month.

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Painting of Haenyeo, with catch-nets and floats. Most modern Haenyo are considerably older than those depicted here

While visiting my friend the poet Dan Marshall late last year on Jeju Island (South Korea) I caught sight of a mermaid. When I say mermaid I am using the affectionate name for the Haenyeo or sea-women of Jeju, a kind of modern hunter-gatherer matriarchy persisting on a volcanic island having grown, in little over seventy years, into a beloved tourist hotspot replete with Western-style guest-houses amongst the leek and cabbage fields, 7-11s opposite the fishmongers, and several barista-style cafés and craft ale bars down by the waterfront.

The Haenyeo, as said, are the female sea-foraging people native to Jeju Island, specializing in diving for prized shellfish, sea-snails and seaweeds, both for the family’s benefit and for trade. Their incessant hard work (diving for six hours between subsistence farming) and the high price their goods (abalone, conch, oysters) fetch at market afford them now, as in earlier times, an elevated and contrary position in the traditionally patriarchal society of South Korean culture.

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An hour sat with a palm leaf, letting the form of a coastal foraging bag present itself to me

Quite a lot of research on the Haenyeo can be found easily online, so I don’t want to repeat ineptly what can be found with a quick search. What I want to say is that, even with the number of Haenyeo dwindling, the reluctance, as everywhere else, of new generations to take up the trade, the attempts by ethnophile photographers to fetishize the culture, their foraging model is still in itself a resilient one.

The Haenyeo have supported their families during times of unemployment for the usual bread-winning fishermen to whom they were often married. Instead of being manipulated or pushed out by the arrival of tourism to their island, they have secured trade co-operatives with restaurants to deter ‘cashing in’ on their cultural heritage. They have traditionally resisted the temptation, during the Japanese occupation, of becoming merchants and seafood farmers, instead choosing to remain essentially a highly-productive maritime peasantry (Gwon, Gwi-Sook (2015). “Changing labor processes of women’s work: the haenyo of Jeju Island”. Korean Studies.).

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Black bean paste soup with wild greens and foraged limpets

Though I am wary of romanticizing their undoubtedly laborious life, I feel a great sense of respect for the way the Haenyo ‘make their living’, in the truly creative sense of the phrase.  While I was on Jeju Island I dared to feel a connection to them: almost every day for a few hours, I foraged the land; they foraged the sea. What amazes me more than their ability to dive six-hours in the winter sea and hold their breath for three minutes, to invert the inevitable patriarchal model of their culture (which resembles ours), is the fact that their manner of living, where it matters, down at the marketplace and around the family dinner table, is still viable, regardless of how long that may or may not persist. They have chosen, albeit perhaps subconsciously, to be integral in providing the essential means for their existence.

When contemplating how my attempts to make a living from foraging may or may not parallel theirs, I see that they have at some point found a niche and, in the face of much outward influence, have clung to its essential boundaries: the uninviting but abundant depths of the sea. I don’t want to paint their lives as some triumph over globalization or project virtues and mind-sets upon them that stem from my lack of such, and do not belong to them. Still, what they share with the mermaids is that their very way of life seems to belong more to the world of myth than to the reality of South Korea’s most beloved tourist destination. It is difficult to find suitable and relevant comparisons with their foraging culture, and I have no desire to labour the point in trying to do so.

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Another wild green I never thought I’d see in situ: New Zealand spinach or tetragon

So as the year begins I try to remind myself of the niche of my native forager: the man or woman who trades in the wares of the woodland and the hedgerow and the knowledge of the whereabouts and the particulars of these goods. But he or she also charges a price for essentially foregoing the security of the day wage of the farmer/worker, in order to bring home something that will fetch a price at market, and something more: the work and the wares have in one sense already paid for themselves, in the pleasure and freedom of going out and gathering them in. I think somehow that pleasure and freedom is essentially what keeps a few mermaids still diving off the rocks of Jeju Island.

Mid-April Update: Morels True and False

 

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Morels laid out for inspection

A quick update to say that the morels have decided to stay for another week in Berlin-Brandenburg, giving me the chance to bring home this mixed quarry of black and ‘yellow’ morels (Morchella elata & M. esculenta). The weather has been alternately warm and sunny, then windy and rainy, which might just have provided the right climate – I gathered the second half of this batch in a hailstorm! Though one or two gave the game away standing quite out in the open, the choicest of the lot were tightly packed under the stems of low shrubs, almost completely hidden from sight.

The potentially lethal false morel (Gyromitra esculenta)

The potentially lethal false morel (Gyromitra esculenta)

What’s more, as if by way of testing my knowledge, this brain-like false morel (Gyromitra esculenta) saw me coming, nesting nearby the edibles, and so I used the opportunity to make a photo ID for others (it’s also posing as a snake in the grass in the first photo of this entry, top-left); if it is not specially-prepared but rather mistaken for a morel, consumption of this mushroom regularly leads to a severely unpleasant poisoning, which is not uncommonly deadly. Anyone with a grasp of the common Latin epithets of plants and fungi will notice the contradictory nature of the species name (esculenta = choice, delicious). A number of cultures (Scandinavian, Polish) prepare false morels to extract the poisonous gryomitrin (a toxin of red blood cells); still, its classification as a choice mushroom in the regular sense is no longer accepted. For the fact that it can grow among edible morels, it’s worth knowing how to tell them apart.

Left: Morel. Right: False Morel

Left: Morel. Right: False Morel. Note that colour is no sure indicator; false morels can also be light and dark brown.

So now my mind is spinning as I think of what to do with this sudden gift from the mushroom gods, and I am just as thankful for the gift-reminder of the potentially-deadly find; after al, it is just as important to encounter as its edible likeness. Happy foraging!

 

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Mushrooming: a Mycological game of “Whac-a-Mole”

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Photos by Rebecca Lahl.

This year the mushroom hauls have come in a perfectly regular sequence of hit-miss-hit-miss, and I have thought a lot about just how much it is possible to ‘know’ a particular spot’s capacity for pushing up the mother lode. My first serious forage of the year, at the end of August, was supposed to be my way of introducing a friend to the thrills of foraging by jumping in at the deep end, with earthy handfuls of rich late summer fungi. The spot I chose was a well-known chanterelle/bolete nest, where I have regularly been able to quite nonchalantly spend the afternoon taking only the very best specimens, trusting in the consistent fruitfulness of the forest floor. This time, however,despite near-perfect weather, we found nothing conventionally edible, and a sorry guide I must have seemed to my fledgling forager.

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One week later I was foraging the ingredients for a pre-booked dinner with the urban farm’s head chef Pierre. The guests had been promised wild mushrooms and we absolutely had to come home with something. We went to a different site than the aforementioned one. Half an hour of quite frenzied searching among some very regimented but beautiful Scots pine was unrewarding. Then, on the fringe between pine and deciduous trees, a rich seam opened up, and clusters of bay boletus seemed to be everywhere. Where there was a gentle upward slope, the mushrooms seemed almost to be pouring down the hillside in droves. We took two rucksacks of bays and didn’t see another choice edible in over two hours, which was no problem at all, seeing as we had more than enough for the dinner course.

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Bay boletus – get them while they’re small and firm in the cap.

Roughly two weeks after that, I was called up by Seb and Dylan, two young ‘pop-up’ restaurateurs from Vancouver, who wanted to spend the day foraging for wild edibles, which they planned to cook in an improvised session at their restaurant that same evening. Again, the weather was all but faultless, and I imagined on the strength of the last forage and the similarity of conditions – though at a different site – that we were in for some choice stuff. In conclusion we spent about three hours in the woods coming across the most various fringe-edibles – nineteen species according to Seb’s assiduous note-taking, including deer shield (Pluteus cervinus), plums and custard (Tricholomopsis rutilans – edibility contested), hen-of-the-woods (Grifolia frondosa – to which certain people can be allergic), witch’s eggs (embryonic form of the stinkhorn Phallus impudicus). The variety would have been great, were it not for the fact that a small percentage of the population could be potentially allergic to more than half of what we found – not exactly the kind of thing Seb and Dylan could offer their guests. Though both were very enthusiastic about the diversity of fungi we had found, it was disappointing to know they would have to skip the wild mushroom segment of their event. I was at a loss to explain the absolute absence of ‘choice’ fungi on such a vast area of forest.

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Even when not directly ingested, some mushrooms can trigger bouts of extreme good temperament, and happy crow’s feet.

I noted down the area we had covered and planned to come back with a camera, to get some good photos of the more obscure of the edible fungi that had made Seb’s list that day. Yesterday, on the 29th September, the carpet of questionable edibles had been whisked away, and in its place, an eiderdown studded with ceps and other boletes. The whole forest was as if transformed since the last visit, which must have simply been in a different cycle in terms of fruiting species. Due to the sheer number of perfect ceps and bays, it required no great effort of will power to simply leave every third mushroom to hopefully drop its spores and fulfil its destiny for the two in the basket. Next year I plan to revisit these sites with much more frequency to see if any patterns of activity emerge: flirting with a logical pitfall? numerology? a game of mycological ‘whac-a-mole’? One of the above, at the very least.

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Fräulein F. with the ‘Schniedelwutz’ Cep. Stick that one in yer Google Translator.

Mesolithic Kicks – Birch Tar

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If you pursue the art of foraging for any amount of time, sooner or later you begin to unearth some of the lost techniques that people used (and still use) to process, prepare and preserve wild food. Inherently linked with these techniques are those used to produce all the non-edible daily things we prefer not to do without.

A few things become apparent when experimenting with any long-tried ‘lost’ technique: firstly, that the means of making or obtaining even the most fundamental of household ‘things’ (for example yeast, lye, charcoal, vinegar, etc.) are beyond the common abilities of most of us, though with a bit of research, we could probably produce them. That said, for the longest part of human history the production of our day-to-day consumables required a level of skill and intimate practical knowledge far more developed than those obtained since man began to work the land.

Secondly, in a pre ‘cottage industry’ set-up, the effort people were prepared to put in to produce something reflected how indispensable that thing was. Picking, drying, crushing, threshing, winnowing, cleaning, roasting, and other such techniques were often carried out not because of absolute necessity, but because once discovered the finished product could not ‘comfortably’ be done without.

Thirdly, that the people responsible for coming across and developing these techniques must have been some of the most creative, curious, patient, persistent, and above all ‘normal’ people who ever lived, and stumbling upon, or finally managing to perfect a certain new technique, they must have experienced a kind of elation and joy and sense of mastery of their world that we can perhaps only dream of. Unless we attempt to recreate it from Thursday to Friday afternoon.

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A good friend of mine went to a ‘museum village’ near Berlin where traditional skills are still practised and the products sold to visitors. He brought me back a small jar of birch tar.

Put simply, birch tar is a thermoplastic (re-malleable) material extracted from birch bark using heat. At its simplest it can be used as an adhesive, and as it can be remoulded after solidifying, it is almost completely reusable. In the middle stone age it was used for fixing arrowheads and fletchings onto arrow-shafts (see www.continuas.org/texts/benozzo_distillation.pdf). Later it was used to caulk boats (see http://anthropology.tamu.edu/papers/Franklin-MA1985.pdf), and for waterproofing, sealing, and gluing, and due to its betulin content it has been used as a kind of ointment for the treatment of skin diseases, though little information is available as to exactly how or by whom it was used in this way. The jolly curators of the museum village in Düppel, where my friend found me the sample birch tar, seem to rate its medicinal value quite highly; the label reads as follows: Wenn Pech, Schnapps, und Sauna nicht helfen, führt die Krankheit zum Tode (“If birch tar, schnapps, and sauna do not help, then the illness is fatal.”)

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As has already been said, birch tar is created by heating the bark, importantly in an airtight vessel, comprising of a drum for the bark and a smaller and a smaller vessel underneath it to collect the tar itself. Researching the methodology, we (or better to say my friend) came across various techniques, and ours ended up a combination between elements of different methods, with a bit of common sense and a willingness to learn from having things go wrong the first time.

As said, our method was the double-pot method. The bark container on top can be made out of anything that will withstand a roaring fire. We opted for a pail which we stuffed with birch bark and turned upside down to fit onto an old paella pan, mainly because those were the materials we had to hand. We packed a full travel rucksack’s worth of bark into our container.

The bottom of your bark container will need to be pierced to allow the birch tar to collect in the lower container. Do this while holding the sides so that surface becomes slightly concave; this will hopefully help the run-off of the tar. We also pressed a chicken-wire insert into the bucket to keep the bark in place as to stop pieces of charred bark blocking the hole, but this might not even be necessary.

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Your tar collector can be at least one-third smaller than your bark container, and should be buried in the ground to just above the soil level. We fitted our bark container, container lid, and tar collector together with clay, as we had some lying around, and as we believed it would harden sufficiently in the fire to create an air-tight seal. It would be possible to use many other types of sealant so long as they would withstand the fire.

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So, to assemble your tar kiln, bury the tar collector just short of ground-level deep, fix your bark container to it (if it isn’t already), and build a fire around this based with coal and then loaded with wood. We found it easiest to use the shell of a burned-out oil drum, which we also had lying around. This made it easy to control the fire and keep it evenly burning around the kiln.

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Allow the fire to burn for roughly three hours at a steady temperature. We were using dried oak cut-offs from a sawmill, so we reduced the final time down by at least half an hour, but most sources say three hours is sufficient. This amounts to about a fully-stacked wheelbarrow full of good dry wood. Protect from the rain and allow to cool overnight. The next day, carefully dig out your tar collector, making sure no dirt, char, ash or anything else falls into it. It should look like axle grease mixed with water, and there should be quite a lot of it.

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Raw birch tar. Note the charred birch bark in vessel below

Tip out the water that simply runs off the surface, and set the collector back over/next to the fire to boil off the rest. This could take some time, but the initial moisture bubbles off relatively quickly. The longer you do this, the finer the product. The boiling pitch now readily bursts into flame if the fire is too well-stoked, so have a kind of lid ready to extinguish the pot. In our experience it is best to trap something between the lid and the pot at this point – the pressure change inside the pan when the fire is snuffed out caused our ‘lid’ to be vacuum-sealed until it reached an adequate heat again.

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The top of the kiln (bark container) doubles as a smaller fire bucket for refining down the tar

The museum village sample seems to still have retained some water, and at least in the jar is by no means completely ‘set’. When you are happy, allow the tar to cool gently, at which point it will begin to solidify. Before this it will reduce down only marginally, so don’t worry about the consistency until the temperature is easing completely off. Boil some jars, dry them and fill with the slowly cooling tar while it is still pourable. Alternatively, twist a length of wood into the mixture smoothly and consistently to make a kind of oversized birch tar match-stick, which is easier to use and somehow looks more convincing.

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Birch Tar Technician #1 demonstrates the inedible nature of the product, no matter how much it resembles a lump of Blackjacks

We forgot to weigh the birch bark before we started, the pot before we buried it, and the containers before we finally filled them up with birch tar, so we cannot say with any accuracy what the ratio of bark to tar is (we were far too excited for any of this). A full 35l rucksack stuffed down with birch bark produces about 350g tar, including the stuff that is tricky to get out from the pot before it solidifies again. Furthermore, by treading a middle road between the highly contradictory information on birch tar production with common sense for a crutch along the way, we managed to produce a birch tar that was completely thermoplastic, i.e., one which sets rock hard on cooling, and therefore one that we believe a mesolithic man would have actually been covetous of.

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What’s more it is mid-September, and the hops have been ripening up beautifully, especially as they clamber over the derelict brick railway buildings north-east of Berlin. The area is of course not a hop-growing region; that’s done down in the Hellertau of Bavaria, where they regularly produce more hops per annum than the United States do. In these regions male hop plants are destroyed as not to compromise the harvest by pollination. Despite their beauty many of the wild hops found at the ripening period have already been pollinated anemophilously (the wind did it.), and these are not as good for use as non-pollinated hops. Luckily we have been growing aroma hops as an experiment this year, hardly wild, in fact a U.S. cultivar, ‘Cascade’, which are being dried on sheets of the financial section as I write.

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Pyramus and Thisbe

One thing about foraging is that, the longer you have spent practising it, the more chance there is of a ramble, a bike-ride, or even a lake swim to provide the means and the inspiration for a wild food experiment.

July is a month laden with fruit, but this year, as the weather has been so extreme in the early months, several sources have already been carried off by the birds, including the Cornel cherries and serviceberries, which are usually so prolific in my area. Besides, the relatively dry heat of summer is not my ideal weather for foraging, and with the mushrooms still a few weeks shy, plans had been to do lots of lake swimming.

Krumme Lanke, 8th July

Krumme Lanke, 8th July

A few days ago a friend and I took a long ride south-west to Krumme Lanke lake, swimming and watching the great crested grebes. This friend had been asking after my copy of The Metamorphoses which I had finished over winter (the more astute of my many readers (har har) will note that Ovid seems often to haunt my foraging), and we took turns reading episodes to each other out loud in the shade of the alders by the water. I eventually chose the story of Philemon and Baucis, the pious aged couple who are rewarded for their hospitality to the gods by being turned upon death into two neighbouring trees. We thought about reading Pyramus and Thisbe, but the mosquitoes were coming out, so we took off back towards the city. As I should be writing about foraging and not poetry (and in case you don’t remember it), that unread tale goes in brief like this:

Pyramus and Thisbe in forbidden love, plot a lovers’ tryst. Flee from their respective parents, agree to meet in forest by white-fruited tree next to fountain; enter lion, recently and well-fed, seeking fountain.  Exit Thisbe, running, losing cape. Lion nuzzles cape with bloody mouth. Enter Pyramus, sees cape, thinks worst, commits suicide. Enter Thisbe, sees lover, does same. Blood stains white fruit of tree (and ground beneath tree) blood red. Pyramus and Thisbe forever linked with tree whose white fruits turn blood red – the mulberry tree. End.

We ended up getting slightly lost on our way to the station, and were directed to walk over a small park to the road. On the way we found a piece of white-and-pink gingham cloth caught on some newly sprouting brambles. A few steps ahead the path at our feet became stained a rich crimson with trampled fruit, and we looked up to see clusters of white and red mulberries hanging from the branches. This coincidence pushed me to the absolute limits of my own rational scepticism, and I had a baffled climb in the trees shaking down the massy fruit to be either eaten or bagged by my more-than-patient friend. After I found a way to get myself up to the higher branches we took about seven-hundred grams, just picking the choice fallen fruit from the grass.

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As it is more accustomed to the warmer, milder climates of continental Europe, I have only ever found one other mulberry around Berlin in my three-and-a-half years here, that being at the Schöneberger Südgelände (see previous posts), and it was such a pleasure to find the avenue tree of The Silk Road at the edge of a quiet park in the district of Zehlendorf. I got home and was wondering what to do with the fruit when I started thinking about the leaves, which I’d not bothered to pick. A great fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, some time ago I’d been talking about Israeli food with a friend who had been in Tel Aviv. He told me about the herb Za’atar, which can be the name for thyme, oregano, summer savoury, hyssop, or all four mixed (in Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem he declares Za’atar as simply hyssop). He also told me that instead of stuffing vine leaves, they stuff mulberry leaves. So it was back to the spot to get the leaves I could have gathered in the first place, this time with another friend and minus the literary preamble (after all, who knows what tangent that might have thrown us off at?)

Signornina A. hard at work checking for scale insect

Signornina A. scrutinizes quality of the leaves

Having not come across the tree very often outside of books, I could only recall the beauty and variation of the lower, latent leaves, which could have given a clue to their potential use as vine leaves had I known they were edible. The lobes and margins seem to define their shapes and limits however they see fit, often distinctly asymmetrically:

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Eccentrically lobed

Simple toothed margin

Simple toothed margin

After getting the leaves back home and experimenting with them a little, it was easy to see how well-suited the mature ones were to the job, and as I’ve not experimented much with leaf parcels in the wild food kitchen, I thought I might store them in brine to make my own semi-wild dolmades at a future date. Preparing the whole bag of them turned out to be really satisfying work, as they yielded up the best method of folding; once from tip to base, then the outer margins together along the leaf vein, I bettered this technique by dipping them in the brine first to make them stick. This way they can be packed down into a mason jar in spirals, the folded margins facing out, the veins facing in; this way, they interlock and tend not to float up to the surface where they could become exposed to the air. This also looks better than a mass of leaves held under the brine any which way.

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Going through the leaves, cleaning each one with a damp cloth before packing down, you really see the beauty of their varied margins – it seems to me the work of luthiers (or string instrument makers) reaching from Europe to China is recurrently grounded in work surrounding leaf patterns: whether it be simple ornamentation, or the whole form of the instrument (think of the cut-away forms of guitars, lutes and dulcimers), some echo of the leaf is almost always desired in the wood’s final aesthetic.

Finally, after the last forage walk I did, where I was a bit over-enthusiastic about giving out samples for the foragers to try, my wild drinks trolley was looking a bit on the famished side (especially that the last of the elderflower champagne was successfully polished off before it exploded – the same could not be said for the nettle beer). I decided that something other than fingertips and the suicide spots of mythological lovers could be stained mulberry red…

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