Utah has an official food, a flag, a dog and a tree. The State Tree was for many years the Colorado Spruce but has been changed by our legislators to the Quaking Aspen. Really, I think the state tree should be the historic mulberry. Although it’s not indigenous to our ecosystem, it has plenty of Utah history, to wit: 1) Brigham Young imported 100,000 mulberry trees from France to be planted in Utah; and 2) he ordered silkworm eggs and had his minions build a cocoonery to hold 2,000,000+ worms. By 1877, there were 5 million silk worms feeding on mulberry leaves in the attics of settlers in Utah. One saint was actually called on a mission specifically to spread the ‘gospel of silk’ to educate Utahns on how to grow worms, feed them, collect their silk cocoons and then weave/sew with the silk thread they produced. From St. George to Logan silk was all the rage for a time. The industry has left Utah long ago, but the historic trees are everywhere. There’s a few old giants on 1100 East and 600 South by Judge High School and a bunch out in West Valley on 4100 South. They produce flavorful but messy fruit that looks much like blackberries that are as long as a little finger.
It’s rare to see anyone selling mulberries or mulberry products even at farmers markets. People who own property with mulberry trees love the shade provided by the big leaves but hate the mess of the abundant fruit. Many of us have fruit trees, old and new, in our front and back yards but few of us cull nature’s gifts and do anything with the apples, apricots, peaches, pears and plums in the summer… but we should.
Erase your guilt of rotting fruit by signing up with SLC Fruit Share. The program is seeking volunteers who want to make a year-long commitment to help prune trees and harvest fruit from yards in our valley. Think about it – every year tens of thousands of fruit fall to the ground and rot. This creates a waste management problem, attracts wasps and other bugs that sometimes cause a public health hazard. If you sign up for the Fruit Share program you can get volunteers to come harvest your trees. The bounty then is split three ways between you, the volunteer pickers and local food banks. Everyone wins! The will also trim and clean up your trees so that they can continue to produce and stay healthy.
If you don’t have fruit trees but would love part of the harvest, you can volunteer to pick fruit. The commitment is two hours a month and orientation is MARCH 7TH from noon to 3:00 PM. To date the group has harvested almost 50,000 lbs. of fruits and nuts that would have gone wasted on the ground to help the Salt Lake Community Action Program, Utahns Against Hunger, Real Food Rising and partners with TreeUtah and The Green Urban Lunchbox. You can call 801.535.6438 to find out more about volunteering and the orientation. To register your trees to be pruned and harvested, go to www.slcgov.com/general/absolutefp/Fruit_Form .