During the late spring and early summer there are certain specific destinations I go to on my long walks in the South Valley of Albuquerque: fruiting mulberry trees. I carry along a plastic bag and spend some quality time harvesting the ripe berries and staining my hands reddish-purple. But the stains are worth it–they wash off easily and the berries are used in surprisingly varied recipes, including both spicy ones and cool-down desserts. Botanically, the fruits of the mulberry are not berries, but rather a collective fruit. We’ll call them berries anyway because the look like berries. The dark, one-inch long berries have been eaten by mankind since before recorded history and are also consumed by birds, racoons, skunks, and squirrels. They were a delicacy at feasts in ancient Rome, and the Romans dedicated the tree to Minerva, goddess of wisdom. Ovid, in Metamorphoses, tells the story of the star-crossed lovers Pyramus and Thisbe, who killed themselves beneath a fruiting white mulberry. When the dying Thisbe prayed to the gods that the tree would “always have fruit of a dark and mournful hue, to make men remember the blood we two have shed,” the gods granted her wish and changed the white mulberry into the black mulberry, which stains the hands a reddish color. Read my article on mulberries here.