Drying mulberries: an experiment

Wow, two months. It’s a bit sad how things you don’t really want to fall through the cracks all the time. Blogging is one of those things. Going through my last entries makes me think that nothing worth writing about happened this year at all. Things did happen in the last two months: coming back to France, travelling a little, going to job interviews and the like. And fun things too, which I don’t get around to writing about because then it just makes me think of all the other fun things I wanted to blog about and I just get stalled. So I’m just goingt to write about the latest things that happened in no particular order, before this all becomes too much of a mess and I jsut stop blogging altogether.

So, two days ago, I went out to pick mulberries. It’s a very peculiar thing about France: we have mulberry trees all over the place, but mulberries are not commonly eaten. In fact they don’t even sell them on the marketplace, only some people like to eat them when they happen to be under a mulberry tree and have nothing better to do. Right in front of the place I live, there are enormous, luscious mulberry trees, and nobody picks the fruit and they just fall and make a mess. So I decided to add mulberries to the list of random growing things I like to harvest.

First observation: my mulberry-harvesting skills definitely need refining. The problem is that mulberries are very delicate, so you can’t exactly gab them and pull them off; shaking the branch lightly is a better method. Only thing is, when you shake the branch, they fall off and you end up getting as many mulberries on the ground as into your basket. Since the trees are in a car park, I’m a little squeamish about picking them once they’ve fallen. Regardless, I did manage to get about one kilo of them, not counting those I ate in the process. I ended up sharing my stool with a guy who was passing time by eating mulberries while waiting for his girlfriend, and couldn’t find any on the lower branches since I’d already picked them all. We talked about the weather and other unmemorable things, but it just felt good to share the moment with someone else who could appreciate what nature gave us.

When I go out to pick fruit, I usually make preserves, but then I end up with dozens of jars that accumulate year in, year out (I wish I could eat as many preserves as I can make, but let’s face it, my lifestyle is far too sedentary for that much sugar). So I got a better idea. It just so happens that recently, my boyfriend came into possession of a solar dryer over. You know, the kind of thing that can generate a decent amount of heat, enough to bake cookies and dry fruit but not enough to roast meat, for instance. The best thing about it is that it works using only solar power for drying things; it does have a motor for other emergency uses, but it can dry fruit with only the sun and a bit of dark cloth for protection. In fact, it’s an extremely convenient tool. It has a slanted glass pane to gather as much sunlight as possible, a black flat surface right underneath to maximise the heat, and it’s even equipped with seats in case you want to be comfortable when you arrange your food for drying. Also, for some bizarre reason, it has some extra functionalities that mean you can drive it around. I don’t exactly know why because you don’t usually drive your oven around, but I suppose the goal is to park it in the sunniest spot for optimal drying? I have no idea, but it’s quite convenient.

In fact, from what I see, many people use mostly the driving function, and don’t use the solar oven function at all. It’s very strange, but there you go.

Actually, when I first thought about drying fruit, I made all kinds of complicated plans to build a solar dryer from bamboo and recycled cooking implements. And then I realised I needed none of that. I just had to buy a strip of black cotton, arrange the mulberries in a single layer on a baking tray, and leave the whole for two days in my boyfriend’s car (that’s the special name for this type of solar dryer, I hear). It worked like a dream. A little too well, perhaps: when I got them back today, my mulberries were baked crisp. Next time I definitely need to grease the tray as well: some of them stuck to the hot metal. But they taste really nice. Perhaps a little bit too dry, but they will do wonder in morning cereals with a little milk.

If I manage to find enough time, patience and possibly a ladder, mulberry drying is going to be part of my official summer rituals from now on. Speaking of which, any input on efficient mulberry picking is very welcome.

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