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by Gail Kavanagh

In many places in the urbanized West, mulberry trees are considered more of a curse than a blessing. Originating in Asia, these trees fruit profusely and drop their cargo with abandon, making a sticky purple mess on whatever lies below. Birds that eat the berries add vivid purple droppings on cars, driveways and outdoor furniture as well.

Mulberry trees pop up anywhere they please and are often classified as a weed. Many people would rather be rid of them and can chop them down with no objections from urban forestry projects. But they still flourish in urban areas because of the ease of propagation, mainly by birds. It would seem that mulberry trees have very little going for them, if it weren’t for the berries.

Mulberries are one of the most delicious and nutritious fruits available. Packed with vitamin C, flavonoids and antioxidants, they are high on the scale of healthy berries. Mulberries are also a good source of iron and vitamin B complex, and provide many other trace vitamins and minerals. In short, these plump berries are powerhouses of concentrated goodness. That’s the blessing side of a mulberry tree in your garden — like having your own multivitamin production line.

The curse of the mulberry tree is often just the result of bad placement. These trees will grow anywhere they can. They grow under decks and carports, alongside brick walls and in the most unlikely places. The root system can be invasive and dangerous to foundations, and the branches spread into a wide canopy that threaten everything beneath it. It must be removed if the tree roots and branches affect foundations and roof structures. But if you want to make the most of this free source of delicious nutrition, it is worth transplanting to another location, or putting a new plant somewhere less threatening.

Try to keep the branches away from neighboring properties, driveways, swimming pools and outdoor clotheslines. Mulberry trees sit well on a lawn or in a field where they can spread unhindered, and drop fruit without the fear of staining something else. The shade of a mulberry tree makes a pleasant spot for picnics.

While the nutritional benefits are best obtained by eating fresh raw fruit, mulberries also have many uses in the kitchen. Mulberries can be cooked on their own or with other fruits into conserve, or added to pies and cakes and cobblers. For cooking purposes, mulberries are similar to other collective fruits (fruits with multi globules on the surface). These include raspberries and blackberries, where mulberries can be a substitution for either or mixed with these fruits. Mulberries can be used in any recipe that calls for collective fruits and can be added to smoothies and ice cream.

When harvesting, ripe mulberries easily pull away from the tree, while less ripe fruit will be harder to pick. Place the fruit in a colander and rinse off under cold flowing water. If you want to freeze the berries, drain off the water and dry them on thick paper towels. You can flash freeze the berries on foil trays in the freezer for two hours, then pack them into bags or containers and store in the freezer for up to 12 months.

If you just cannot ignore the elephant in the room – the lingering purple stain – make friends with it. Mulberry dye is one the oldest known. From the lovely shades of lilac to deep purple that it produces are well worth the effort. The basic recipe is twice the weight of water to mulberries, so one container of mulberries will require four equal containers of water. Bring the fruit and water to the boil, strain into a bowl and add the fabric. Leave overnight to soak. To make a mordant to fix the dye, dissolve one cup of salt in a bucket of warm water, and soak the fabric again overnight before drying naturally in the sun.

The many uses of the mulberry, and its amazing value as a superfood, may help homeowners decide to relocate this useful tree rather than destroy it. Picking the ripe fruit at harvest time is a purple-stained memory shared by many older people across the world. It can be something your children will remember as well.

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Oh, we are all about…

Why Every Woman Should Own a Beautiful Scarf

As evidenced by the storyline of Confessions of a Shopaholic, a scarf can be a defining accessory. Just as the young heroine in the story imagined, her dreams came true as a result of one striking green scarf, though not quite as she had pictured it. What dreams might come true for every woman if she allowed herself the purchase of one beautiful, defining scarf?

Scarves have been a hot fashion trend for several years now, and there are no signs of scarves becoming passé. The scarf has always been a classic, elegant accessory, but it can also promote a casual, quirky look, depending on the style, material, and pattern of the scarf. Scarves are an especially hot trend among teens and young women.

The popularity of the scarf is perhaps due to the fact that it is no longer a cooler-weather-only accessory. Sheer, airy scarves are light enough for the warm months, especially on a mild summer night. While short neck scarves were trendy in the 50s and 60s (picture Jackie Kennedy/Onassis), today’s summer trends include the longer scarves as well.

The scarf’s ability to punch up any simple ensemble is only one of its beauties. You can wear a scarf with a solid shift, a t-shirt and jeans, or a tank top and flirty skirt. Choose a scarf to soften or brighten a dress or outfit that would otherwise not look right on you. Fashion experts recommend you try one around your waist, and some have experimented with tying one (or two) small scarves around their wrist, like a pseudo-bangle.

Why risk feeling overheated by adding a summer scarf? Because it is transferable. Choose the right material and you’ll go from cool air conditioning to summer heat without breaking a sweat. Wear it like a bandana in a convertible to keep your hair from whipping in your face, or drape it around your shoulders in the chilly blast of a/c overload. Wear it loosely draped around your neck with the ends hanging down in warmer temps, or wrap it around your waist when the temps start to sizzle.

The best thing about scarves? They make everyone – of every shape and size – look fabulous. A scarf attracts the eye to the neck and enhances the face. A long, thin scarf worn loosely draped and hanging down adds length to your body. When it trails behind you in the breeze it simulates long hair, a decidedly feminine touch. But the scarf isn’t just feminine (men are wearing them, too); a scarf can be funky or Goth.

Try these options for wearing a scarf:

  • Tie the scarf at the neck and let the ends hang down in front, on the side, or draping down your back. This is a great look for formal outfits and the LBD (little black dress).
  • Wear it open with the ends hanging down your front. Wear this look with casual, flowy clothing or to dress up a blazer.
  • Tie a gauzy, long & thin scarf once just above or below your chest. It’s perfect for tank tops paired with jewelry.
  • Fold a square scarf in half to form a triangle, then tie the very end points behind your neck. Let the shorter point drape in front, or slightly off-center.
  • Fold any long scarf in half length-wise, then put it around your neck with a loop on one side and the ends on the other. Pull the ends through the loop, then pull it until the slip-knot you’ve made is resting near your throat, or wear it more loosely.
  • Wrap a long, thin scarf twice around your neck, then tie it in a knot about three inches below your throat.

Cashmere, lace, silk, organic cotton – drape yourself in a touch of luxury with one or two definable scarves. It’s the easiest and the least expensive way to add style and interest to your wardrobe.

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