The Mulberry Woman

A Taiwan-pound of mulberries

I grew up having purple nails and purple tongue in this season. It is spring, the season for mulberries. My grandfather used to say, I must be a silkworm in my past life. They eat the leaves, I eat the mulberries.

Darker ones are sweeter

The woman was sitting a few feet away from the vegetable stand. She had a bucket of mulberries.  60 NT for a pound, she said. I bought a pound.

Then, I said, “My boy will like the dark ones, because they are sweeter.”

She began picking them one by one.

When I came back with my vegetables from the seller, she was still picking. If you know mulberries, you know a pound of them is quite a bit.

She put the bag on the scale, 57 NT. I said, “Don’t worry about it!” She looked up and smiled, “Oh no, I have to give you 60 NT worth.”

She handed me the bag with purple hands.

For 20 years, I already forgot that mulberries are a part of the spring. This woman called back my childhood memory and the memories of people who did not have much but were downright decent.

    • Tami Magnus
    • May 4th, 2011

    Your post brought back memories for me of my mother’s summer garden and eating directly from the plants there. Thank you for your delightful story and the memories!

    • Rocky Russell
    • May 4th, 2011

    Ahh..mulberries !.
    It evokes such fond memories from my childhood too.
    Back when I was growing up in India, there were mulberry bushes growing in my grandma’s house, in another state from where we lived. Come to think of it, that was the only place that I have found them.

    And in the summers, after a suspense-filled, excitement inducing overnight train ride later, we would end up at my grandma’s house with it’s sprawling compound with all varieties of fruit trees.
    And the mulberry bush would be full with berries, some rotting, as my grandma would chase my young uncle and aunt away from plucking them, saving it for her grandchildren to come.

    So we were eagerly awaited back there by my uncles and aunt. Am sure the taste of the fruit had something to do with it,more than just fondness.

    In any case, we would pluck the ripe ones in the morning while walking around brushing our teeth in the grounds.
    And I remember we had to be careful cos there would be all these furry, green caterpillars crawling around on it’s branches, and they would itch something nasty, if you came into contact with them.

    So, I suppose Xin, I may have known you from your previous life, perhaps🙂

    And the berries, they were wonderful !. In our language, it was called ‘Cat Fruit’, and I have no clue why.

    There were never enough on it for all of our hungry mouths, so my hands were never purple, as yours were, Xin.
    But our minds were full of mischief and bellies full of fruit, all summer.

    We used to have jackfruit trees, which would be lowered by rope and we would cut into it after greasing our hands with oil to avoid the sticky, white milk that would ooze out of the skin.
    It was an elaborate afternoon event. After the first bout with the fruit was over, we would soon be overcome by the omnipresence of the jackfruit. Jackfruit chips, jackfruit jam, cooked jackfruit dishes, jackfruit smell everywhere.

    Those things came in different sizes, and of course we would demand the largest of them be cut down, hoping that the rope would slip and the fruit would come tumbling down the tall tree and land with a thud, underneath. And if the stars were aligned in our favour, perhaps even smashing into a chicken underneath or something. Alas, the mishaps remained in our minds, and we had the behemoth to deal with later. Or rather, the behemoth dealt with us afterwards for our imprudence.

    And there was this one dark room, where the mangoes would be stored in hay to ripen. There were hundreds of them, and all giving away that ripe, saliva inducing fragrance. So many in fact, that we would just roll them on the floor with our hands, mashing the insides, then biting off a tip and sucking the juice out, and chucking the rest (a good portion of everything edible).
    Ah the decadence !

    These days, I pass by the sorry looking, artifically ripened mangoes on display on the streets in New York, priced at $3 each or something, and I feel sorry for all the pulped ones we wasted !.
    And what’s more, the tree back at grandma’s gives out perhaps a dozen fruits a season, if that.
    Revenge of the mangoes, no doubt.

    Thanks for this post. As you can see, it’s taken me on trip to my own fruit filled past.

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