Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 4), we'll be counting down, in no particular order, 100 of our favorite dishes.
72: Persian Mulberries at Weiser Family Farms.
If you've never had a bowl of ripe Persian mulberries — a berry about which the Homeric adjective “wine-dark” would work nicely, unlike the nouns for which Homer actually used it — then you might want to find your nearest Weiser Family Farms market stall. This should not be difficult, as Alex Weiser goes to a lot of Los Angeles farmers markets. At yesterday's Wednesday Santa Monica market, he had a stack of containers filled with mulberries, their dark purple juice collecting at the bottom of the plastic like, well, wine.
Weiser Farms started bringing Persian mulberries to the markets years ago, after seeing people lining up at other market stalls for them. Alex Weiser's father originally planted mulberry trees at their Lucerne Valley property for the birds, to keep them away from the grapes. Now they have about 70 mulberry trees and bushes at both Lucerne Valley and their Tehachapi property, as the berries do well in the desert climate.
Mulberries may look like a darker, juicier kind of blackberry, but they are a different class of berry entirely — deeply flavorful, both sweeter and brighter than other dark berries, and with the kind of intensity that makes you want to sit right down on the sidewalk in front of the stall and finish the box immediately. Which is pretty much the best way to eat them. (Note to self and others: Do NOT wear a white shirt to the farmers market.)
Mulberries are best served very simply, either by the handful or maybe with a pour of cream. Or you can do what I did with the rest of the ones I brought home yesterday — those that my kid didn't eat with her fingers — and fold them into a bowl of unsweetened whipped cream, flavored only with a bit of ground cardamom and half of a scraped vanilla bean. What you don't see in the picture is the pool of mulberry juice in the bottom of the bowl, an utterly glorious sauce that painted the cream a dark magenta with each spoonful. What you don't taste is how insanely good it was. Go get your own.
Weiser says that he'll have fresh mulberries probably until the third week in September. And after that? He'll be bringing dried mulberries, which are almost as great as the fresh ones. He's also selling fresh and frozen berries to area chefs, notably Zoe Nathan (Sweet Rose Creamery, Huckleberry), who apparently likes them even more than we do. In fact, Weiser just texted that Sweet Rose is doing a mulberry sorbet, Sweet Rose being conveniently close to the Santa Monica market. Maybe get in the car.
Check out the rest of our 100 of our favorite dishes. Suggestion? Write us a comment.
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