Make time for mulberries

This year’s mulberry crop seems to be a few weeks ahead of schedule…not that you’ll find many forms of Kansas wildlife complaining.

Mulberries, a springtime treat for a variety of Kansas animals...including humans.

Summertime squirrel hunters, all three or four of us, can attest to the fact that fox and gray squirrels both love to feast on ripened mulberries. A high number of songbirds do, too.

Some of the most interesting connoisseurs of the ripe-when-they-are-purple berries are fish. Both carp and channel cats are known to  sit under a mulberry limb that hangs over their river or stream, and grab the little fruit that fall into the water.

Several years ago ex-Gov. Mike Hayden showed me several mulberry imitations he had for fly-fishing beneath the trees. I got several reports last year of anglers at Glen Elder and Milford Reservoirs fishing mulberries below mulberry trees that were standing in several feet of water because of excess rains.

Oh, and people seem to like them, too. Last summer Ed Schulte, a long-time friend, gave me a jar of jelly or jam that contained mulberries…and it was excellent.

I couldn’t even guess how many times I’ve taken a few minutes break from fishing somewhere to toss a few purple berries in my mouth.

My best mulberry memory, though, was about 17 years ago when I tagged along to help Marc Murrell take his then two-year-old daughter, Ashley, to catch her first fish. That was no problem as the bluegill were big and on beds near shore.

No, the problem was to get young Ashley, who at the time was cuter than should be legally allowed, to make it back to the truck. Marc had picked a few berries from a nearby tree and shared them with the knee-high girl, and she was instantly addicted.

“Mo moo berries,” was almost a mantra for the child. As well as a bit dirty and smelling a little like fish, Marc took his little darling home with purple lips and cheeks from her outdoors feast.

I think of her face about every time I stop to snack on a few mulberries, myself.