Every Friday, our building sends out a little newsletter with important (and not so important) announcements. They’re generally about things that don’t affect me, like pets and storage and the pool. But every once in a while, I’ll see something like the recent notice about the communal herb garden and it’s like a little light shining down from above onto FREE FOOD.
I’ll be honest: I’m a little suspicious about eating anything that I’ve actually seen come out of the ground. We who grew up in the city are the exact opposite of the farm-to-table movement. If it hasn’t been washed, processed, packaged, and shelved, how can it be trusted? You know what grows in nature? DEADLY MUSHROOMS and POISON IVY. End of story.
However, in the spirit of broadening my horizons and yada yada yada, I decided to check out the communal herb garden. And I recognized what was either a giant chive plant (bush? vine?)—and I love me some chives—or something that would end up killing me. MAYBE BOTH. Long story short, I bit the bullet (or the chive, heh heh) and lived to tell the tale. Now I have fresh chives whenever I want them. It is glorious. Basically, I'm feeling what the Pilgrims felt at their first harvest.
As per usual, the universe spotted the door that I left ajar and kicked it WIDE OPEN and I don’t know what to do. Just when I’d gotten comfortable with the idea of eating something that didn’t come in plastic wrap, I see a woman hanging out at a tree in my building’s driveway, pulling something off the tree and eating it.
I repeat: She was standing at a tree, pulling something off the tree, and eating it. Like some freaky scenario out of The Giving Tree.
Maybe it’s a result of growing up in Wisconsin, where we have few-to-zero trees that grow anything you could eat. When I was very small, we had an apple tree in our backyard. But then I grew up and met people who had effing ORANGE trees in their backyard and I’m getting cold sweats just thinking about that. GROWING YOUR OWN CITRUS IS UNNATURAL, YOU GUYS.
So back to the woman and the tree.* My first thought was that she was a hobo, because eating directly from a tree seems like something a hobo would do and also because I’m living in 1935. However, she appeared to be clean and well-dressed, and hadn’t tied her belongings in a handkerchief attached to the end of a stick, as all hoboes are required to do. Confusing.
I told TheBoy all about this—IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL—and he agreed to take a look at the tree with me. As we approached, I kept an eye out for the corpse of that woman, but didn’t see it. So either the tree’s fruit was safe to eat or the poison was slow-acting enough to allow her to die after getting back to her condo. (“The Mystery Tree: berry eaters check in, but they don’t check out.”)
We took a good look at the tree, and saw something like this:
I’m the first to admit that this seems pretty positive. But my top-notch Brownie training kicked in a reminded me that the best stuff in nature is always deadly. See: Poison dart frogs. Jellyfish. Angelina Jolie. Even after Google almost-incontrovertibly points to this being a mulberry tree, I’m not totally convinced. Why not?
1. Mulberry trees attract silkworms. It seems highly likely that I would go in for a berry and end up eating a silkworm, that would then burrow its way out of my stomach a la that scene in Alien.
2. The mulberries are probably covered in squirrel pee.
3. And weird microscopic aphids.
4. Per Wikipedia, “Unripe fruit and green parts of the plant have a white sap that may be toxic, stimulating, or mildly hallucinogenic.” Don’t mind me; I’m just over here TRIPPING OUT ON MULBERRIES WOO.
It’s just not worth it. You want the produce? I can’t handle the produce.
* IMO, this segue works equally well when telling the story of Adam and Eve.