A few years back, I lived near a prolific mulberry tree along the Prospect Expressway, and ever since, I've been a bit obsessed with picking them, mostly because I love the idea of getting berries for free. (Take that, $8/quart Greenmarket strawberries!)
But free doesn't mean anything if the food doesn't taste any good, and lucky us, mulberries taste really really good. And as long as you don't mind investing some time, turning your skin purple, and eating a little New York City dirt, they're lots and lots for the taking.
And the best part is, it's just about to be mulberry season.
A little background:
Despite all my excitement, there actually aren't all that many mulberry trees around New York today, which makes finding a good one all the more satisfying. According to the Parks Department, just 1,200 of New York City's 600,000 street trees are mulberries.
Those that are here are hardy, and young trees are noted for being able to grow 10 feet in a year. They're resistant to pollution, drought, and don't mind the crappy soil they're often planted in, which of course makes them perfect NYC trees.
The only annoying thing about mulberries is the stem. They've got long ones, and after you've spent an hour in the sun picking the fruit itself, the last thing you want to do is pick off a million little stems. Luckily, they're totally edible, so it's really just an aesthetic problem. And, though it goes without saying, you should wash them thoroughly before eating.
The absolute best thing is just eat them off the tree, but the next best thing is to mix them into some homemade ice cream. So let's do that.
Mulberry Frozen Yogurt
3 cups plain Greek yogurt (2%!)
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar
Freeze in whatever ice cream machine you have hanging around, then, about five minutes before the batch is done, throw in 1 cup of mulberries.
Adding the berries at the end of the process keeps them from freezing rock hard and gives them just enough time to stain the ice cream purple. Since they're super sweet when they're ripe, you don't need to add much sugar to the mix.
Where and when to get them:
One way to do it, if you're up for the adventure, is to walk around and look for the purple stains on the pavement, starting sometime in early June (we hope). The tree nearest my house is still looking pretty weak as of May 24, but some hints of color are starting to appear, so I'll keep you updated.
The short answer is to take them from one of the trees on this map. I'll be updating it as I find new trees, but if you know if others, send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll add them to the list.
View Fruit Trees in Brooklyn in a larger map
As for which berries to pick, make sure they're dark purple and ready to fall off the tree. Try them; they should be soft and sweet, melty almost.
One time saving tip before you head out: you can always shake the branch to loosen all the ripe berries, then just scoop them off the ground before they get too dirty.
And with that, go forth and eat mulberries. No one else does, and they're really so good.