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Les Mûriers: Mulberries

Mulberries, known as les mûriers in French, were popular in the southern United States, particularly during the 1700's, when new settlers, including French Huguenots, decided to plant mulberry trees for silkworm production. Another type of mulberry tree was already native to the area, so both types, the native and imported varieties, can still be found in parts of North America.

Even if mulberry trees could not be grown across the entire continent, they were certainly missed by some people from France. According to Patricia B. Mitchell's booklet, French Cooking in Early America, one such individual was Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, a Lieutenant General during the Seven Years' War in New France. He wrote to his wife back in Montpelier, France, lamenting the time spent away from his mulberry trees at his château in France. Besides that, he asked her to send all kinds of food items to North America, including prunes and confectionery. Unfortunately, he would not be able to see his château again, for he died the day after the famed Battle of the Plains of Abraham (according to The Canadian Encyclopedia).

Today, some historical homes across the United States have been named after mulberries, indicating the height of their popularity at one time. However, mulberries are found less frequently for a few reasons, including the purple stains they leave on your fingers. Ripe mulberries are a rare delicious treat, so it is worth the sacrifice. There is a reason why so many birds enjoy them, too, including beauties such as Tanagers and Cedar Waxwings. Here in the southeastern United States, we get a reliable bounty every year from a sturdy mulberry tree, but we have to get there before the birds!


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