by Alison Hein.
My sister, Janet, has a red mulberry tree in her garden. Mulberries are prolific in the Northeast, where they are better known for their messy habit of dropping sticky, ripe berries wantonly to the ground than for their inherently sweet and tangy, somewhat wild, juicy berry flavor.
Mulberries are not commercially cultivated in this country (you will soon learn why), and make a rare early-summer treat. Peak growing season is fleeting, and harvesting is messy. Berries fall to the ground the moment they ripen, becoming instant prey for birds, deer, and other creatures. Picking ripe berries from the tree results in a slow, frustrating harvest, and stubborn, crimson-stained hands. Tenacious little stems cling stalwartly to the tree, making you fight for every berry. Instead, try laying down a tarp or drop cloth, give the tree a good shake, then scoop up the ripe berries.
Now, what to do with them? Pies, tarts, pancakes and muffins are all good options. Mulberries look and taste somewhat like blackberries, but with a sultry, wild edge. Jellies and jams, or mulberry-infused vodka, will taste like a fleeting, exotic indulgence. Whatever you decide, make sure you harvest enough mulberries to create a wild, early-summer breakfast in bed.
2¼ cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ cup (one half stick) cold butter
¾ cup milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ cup toasted walnuts*
1 ½ cups mulberries (or blackberries), carefully rinsed and placed on paper towel to dry
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Extra flour for shaping scones
Preheat oven to 425°. In large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and ginger. Cut butter into small pieces and cut into dry ingredients.
In a small bowl, combine milk, vinegar and one egg. Mix well, then add all at once to dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed in. Add toasted walnuts and mulberries. Mix in gently.
Turn batter out onto floured board. Divide into 16 equal pieces and shape into balls. Press each ball gently into a flat round. Cut a cross in the top of each scone, but do not cut all the way through.
Place scones on lightly greased cookie sheet. Lightly beat remaining egg, and brush on top of scones. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Place in oven and bake for about 14 to 16 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.
∗ To toast walnuts, preheat oven to 350º. Arrange walnuts on baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool, then chop.
Makes 16 mini-scones.
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