“All fruits are beautiful, but the mulberry is the king of fruits.”
– Persian Proverb
Move over cherry, there’s a brand new berry on the town.
Thousands of cherry lovers all through the Bay Area make their means every spring to certainly one of dozens of U-pick farms in Brentwood for the plump, juicy spherical fruits, however now – for the primary time – there’s another choice that’s arguably simply as candy: the Himalayan purple mulberry, which seems a bit like an elongated blackberry with tiny clusters of fruit.
Not solely is Habitera Farms the one one permitting guests to partake within the selecting of the tasty, dark-colored fleshy fruit — the season lasts about eight weeks — however it seems to be the one enterprise promoting mulberries on such a big scale commercially within the United States.
Habitera’s natural Very Mulberry enterprise opened for its first U-pick season on May 13, and by all accounts, it has been an awesome success, based on Harvest Time spokeswoman Nancy Mai. Mai’s advertising and marketing firm helped promote the weird fruit and in addition promotes the opposite farms within the nonprofit farming group.
“Opening weekend was phenomenal,” Mai mentioned. “It was beyond the owners’ expectations.”
Farm founder Anil Godhwani of Fremont counted some 500 guests the primary day and one other 700 on Mother’s Day, together with a 100-year-old Chinese grandmother who recalled climbing mulberry bushes within the Thirties and Forties in China, the place the fruit originated.
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Godhwani thinks the mulberries have been successful as a result of many individuals from all over the world are conversant in them from childhood.
“People have had mulberries, whether it’s in the United States from a tree in the backyard or a neighbor’s yard,” he mentioned. “Be it Turkey, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Europe or even South America.”
Godhwani mentioned on the primary weekend they met guests who hailed from some 30 completely different international locations all waxing nostalgic in regards to the superb mulberry and “how much they had missed it.”
Co-founder Smita Sadana inspired Godhwani to comply with his dream to reintroduce mulberries to the general public. A monetary investor within the farm, together with Godhwani’s brother, Gautam, who is also a co-founder, she mentioned she understands why the mulberry is so fashionable.
“Mulberries, the way I look at it, are a very easy-to-love fruit,” she mentioned. “It has a really nice taste, it has a very incredible texture and it has a consistent taste.”
A local of Punjab in Northern India, Sadana grew up consuming mulberries or “shahtoot” as they’re referred to as in Hindi – the identical selection at Habitera – plucked recent from the tree. Godhwani, who grew up in Delhi, additionally recalled pilfering the tasty berries from his neighbor’s tree. And whereas there are various methods to eat them – in baked items, smoothies, chutneys, jams and extra – each of them recall merely having fun with them recent.
“Every year when these mulberries would come, we would share it with friends … it is the most incredible fruit,” Sadana mentioned. “We would stop eating all the other fruits just to accommodate the mulberries for the eight to 10 weeks they are here.”
Godhwani preferred mulberries a lot that 15 years in the past he planted his first tree within the yard of his Fremont dwelling. He would later plant six extra in addition to three Himalayan white mulberry bushes together with different fruit-bearing bushes.
A lover of recent fruit and veggies, Godhwani typically traveled to Brentwood farms on spring weekends, primarily for cherry and apricot selecting, even typically renting 55-passenger buses to move household and associates – only for enjoyable.
“Brentwood was an area I was familiar with; I had gotten to know the farmers,” mentioned Godhwani, who works as a serial entrepreneur.
The Fremont businessman mentioned he was fascinated by beginning a farm and started researching choices with Sadana and others in 2015. That took them to UC Davis, the place they tasted a number of the 100 styles of mulberries that exist.
“We got a chance to taste a lot of mulberries and let me tell you, all mulberries are not alike, from cotton puffs – tastes like you’re eating a puff of cotton – all the way to Himalayan mulberry that tastes incredible,” Sadana mentioned.
“So, we wanted to get a mulberry, which has nutritional benefits, but it also has a taste benefit,” she mentioned.
Just a few years later, Godhwani realized that 84 acres “with really good soil” was up on the market in Brentwood in 2018. He was hooked however earlier than he may plant something, he had to decide on the variability.
“This is the one we fell in love with,” Godhwani mentioned of candy purple mulberry. “Because it’s exquisite, its taste and flavor. It’s known as the Himalayan Mulberry.”
Also referred to as the Pakistani mulberry – it seems on each side of the border between India and Pakistan – the Himalayan proved to have a lovely sweetness but a hardier pores and skin so it’s simpler to move than another varieties, the cofounders mentioned.
As for the dietary worth, the mulberry is understood for its excessive ranges of iron and Vitamin C, and excessive concentrations of the antioxidant anthocyanin, thought to fight coronary coronary heart illnesses.
“It’s also full of resveratrol (antioxidant), like red grapes, but have way more resveratrol, which is great for anti-aging,” Sadana mentioned.
Godhwani planted the primary 10 acres of Himalayan mulberries in 2020, added 60 acres the following yr and extra in 2022 to fill out his 84-acre ranch, in addition to six extra acres he leases close by. The bushes, that are largely drought-resistant, begin producing small quantities within the second yr however don’t change into economically viable till yr three, Sadana mentioned.
The bulk of the bushes have been propagated from cuttings off the unique mulberry tree in Godhwani’s yard, and so they “are doing fantastic,” he mentioned.
“It takes about four or five years for the tree to be fully mature,” Sadana mentioned. “When our trees are fully mature, we are probably looking at a million-plus pounds every season.”
With few farmers on the market rising mulberries, most doing analysis and improvement — and none to the extent of Habitera — the Brentwood entrepreneurs needed to get creative with a lot of the operation, together with deciding how you can get the juicy fruits off the bushes, which might develop greater than 50 toes tall.
Their revolutionary strategies to reap the berries embody a pushcart they loosely modeled after the Rehri cart Indian road distributors push round. The farm’s carts are pushed near the bushes and one individual provides the branches a shake with a pole, inflicting the ripe fruits to fall down into an connected netting.
“The beauty is that when you shake the tree during the two-month season and give it just the right amount of shaking, 90% of the mulberries that drop on the nets are ripe ones, which is wonderful,” Godhwani mentioned, noting they’re shaken manually each different day throughout harvest.
Last yr, the farm additionally employed Luis De la Garza as basic supervisor, a 10-year veteran of the berry business. “He brought with him a wealth of knowledge not just about farming, but specifically about berries,” Sadana mentioned.
In addition, they employed 10 highschool college students to function U-pick guides and help guests to find ripe fruits.
“We’ve got lots and lots and lots of mulberries on those 60 acres,” Godhwani mentioned. “So, when people came this past weekend, they absolutely loved it.”
The entrepreneurs mentioned they’ve begun sharing recipes on their web site, VeryMulberry.com, to make use of berries in every part from pie and jams to smoothies, mojitos and extra. They are additionally working with Sunnyvale’s Pints of Joy to develop a mulberry ice cream, he mentioned.
In addition, their mulberries, together with each purple and a restricted variety of white mulberries, are offered at space farmers markets and shortly at on-line direct-to-customer websites, GoodEggs.com and SayWeee.com.
With the difficulties of transport the fragile fruits lengthy distances, for now Godhwani considers 99% of his market to be the better San Francisco Bay Area, however he mentioned he may contemplate going to different areas down the highway.
“It’s early days for us right now because we want to learn more about how to grow mulberries commercially — successfully and profitably — but our longterm goal very much is to really be a catalyst to reintroduce mulberries to America,” he mentioned.
Habitera Farms, at 501 Hoffman Lane, is open for U-pick on weekends, with the mulberry season often lasting by means of late June. For extra data, go to www.verymulberry.com.