Strawberries are not readily available here, in the supermarkets of Jitra. Of course you can get them in Tesco but that's in Alor Setar which is about 20km from where I stay. So, when a friend, Abang Tad, who is xnuripilot's regular golf buddy, gave a cutting of a "mulberry" plant about two years ago, I was very sceptical by its ability to thrive under the blazing hot Jitra sun especially so when he described the fruit as being very strawberry in both taste and appearance! I'm sure many my age group learnt in our Geography class that mulberry leaves were fed to silkworms in temperate China. How an earth will it survive the tropical heat here?
Knowing Abang Tad would expect a progress report on his precious cutting, I had no choice but to plant it, albeit very reluctantly, for this would mean an extra plant to water. I did ask him for some sample of the berries before submitting to his good intentions but was told he had just pruned his plant. I could not understand what pruning had to do with my request!! (The relationship was discovered later).
I was not wrong in my assumption for Abang Tad enquired many times on the outcome of his cutting via xnuripilot, in between their games. I had to furnish xnuripilot with the necessary information to be relayed over to Abang Tad. I made sure the information supplied to xnuripilot was heavily exaggerated to avoid an unwanted inspection by the owner of the cutting himself. I was quite certain the plant would not be able to withstand the extreme heat so why should I waste both time and energy on it..
But, the cutting started to sprout leaves and before I knew it, small green berries were seen clinging to the tiny branches. All these in just over two months!! It made me feel less guilty in faking my interest to Abang Tad. I didn't want to disappoint the old man who seemed overly enthusiastic when relating about the goodness of the mulberries.
Well, in my opinion, these mulberries will never be able to compete with those succulent strawberries we're so familiar with but they are a passable substitute for someone staying in remote Jitra and not willing to drive 20km to get the real thing. With a bit of cream and sugar, they can be quite delectable and promise a delightful change from an otherwise plain breakfast.
A bowlful of freshly plucked mulberries.
The mulberry tree which started out very humbly from a cutting given by Abang Tad. The berries will appear almost immediately after pruning. So, in order to ensure an endless supply of berries all year round, prune the branches regularly.