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British Columbia: The Perfect Berry and More Fruit Quests

Only a few farms in North America grow the rare and extraordinary Persian mulberry.

“Have a feed from the welcoming tree,” said Anna Zebroff, pointing to some inky purple-black berries on a branch. I plucked one, and it stained my fingers vermilion. I popped it in my mouth. It was ecstatically juicy. The flavor was incomparable—a deep, syrupy sweetness with an incredible kick of bright acidity. I ate about a dozen without pausing for breath. It was the most delicious fruit I’d ever had.

“We use the four-letter B word to describe them,” George Zebroff said. “Best.”

I’d traveled to the Zebroff family farm in British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley, five hours from Vancouver, to try Persian black mulberries. These are far more succulent than Chinese white mulberries or the red mulberries that grow in backyards in North America. Persian black mulberries have a serious following: Alice Waters of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse poses alongside one tree in her portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.

Persian black mulberries are hard to find. In North America, only a handful of farms cultivate a few trees. The season is brief—usually the last two weeks of July—and they have a shelf life of just two or three days. The Zebroffs let visitors eat them off the tree (by appointment only), and they make jam and wine with whatever’s left, giving it away to friends. I feel lucky to have been invited to my own private berry tasting.

—Adam Leith Gollner, author of The Fruit Hunters

Fruit Picking: Farms to Visit

Fruit Picking: Fairchild Farm
Tropical fruit at Fairchild Farm. Photo © Gaby Orihuela.

British Columbia, Canada

Visitors to Zebroff’s Organic Farm can try Persian black mulberries by appointment in late July, when they’re in season. 1868 Barcelo Rd., Cawston; 250-499-5374.

California

At Andy’s Orchard, well-known Bay Area farmer Andy Mariani grows a wide range of top-notch stone fruit, like Baby Crawford peaches and Black Republican cherries. 1615 Half Rd., Morgan Hill; andysorchard.com.

Florida

On weekends, the Fruit Market at the Fairchild Farm (an agricultural research station, left) sells tropical fruit like mangoes and jackfruits, as well as smoothies. 14885 SW 248 St., Homestead; fairchildgarden.org.

New Hampshire

On the Vermont border, Poverty Lane Orchards grows some of the country’s best apples. Its ciders are also outstanding. 98 Poverty Ln., Lebanon; povertylaneorchards.com.


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Published May 2012
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