Saturday, June 24, 2006

Where there's toot...

...there are Palestinians! It's true! The subtley sweet lucious, oblong mullberry is in high season now. Few people here know they are even edible, I think. And because they drop to the ground when they are ripe for picking, even fewer bother to. But the trees are everywhere you go here (at least in Virginia and Maryland, and I remember seeing a few in Massachusetts a few years ago), usually discretely hidden amongst other trees, in parks or forest; and if you look closely, you'll find wild rasberry bushes of different varieties (we found yellow and black) lurking not far behind. We went berry picking (and eating) a few times, and Yousuf ate I think his weight in berries :); and we had a lot of curious passers-bys, with kids asking their father's "what are they eating"?

And almost every tree (or other berry farm) we'd go to, we'd find some Palestinians or Syrians picking too. That's because the trees, know as toot trees back home, are very popular and considered somewhat of a delicacy because the berries are hard to collect and are extremely perishable. Usually a small container sells for 10 shekels in Gaza fruit stores.

There is something of respect and heritage associated with the toot tree, because like the olive tree and the jumaiz tree (cousin of the fig), they have deep-roots and last for hundreds of years and are a sign of steadfastness and resiliency (sadly, the jumaiz is a dying breed, with many of the remaining trees in Gaza, including that whose drooping branches we used to swing on in my grandfather's farm, bulldozed in the early days of the Intifada by Israeli troops).


Blogger ياسمين حميد said...

my grandfather used to have a toot-tree in his garden many, many years ago. each time the berries were ripe, we chidren climbed on the big ladder and picked them. unfortunately he cut it down a long time ago, I don't exactly remember why...

I still remember the taste!

8:55 PM  
Blogger Fatima said...

Very nice. We have a couple of toot trees in my parents house in Va, and get a few neighbors who come by berry-picking. But we don't appreciate it as much as we should!

4:01 PM  
Blogger Yudit Ilany said...

I love mulberries, their taste brings on sweet childhood memories.
And suddenly i had a weird association.
About 2-3 weeks ago a popular Tel Aviv weekly magazine carried a map of all the toot trees in Tel Aviv (ofcourse they forgot Jaffa,but that's something we're used to).
I've made into a habit to search for signs of the existence of Palestinian homes, underneath Tel Aviv's urban spread: an old wall here, a sheikh's grave there, part of a sabil yet somewhere else. Often, in the countryside, you can recognize the location of where there used to be a Palestinian village or hamlet, by the cactus plants and the bustan fruit-trees:figs, olives, almonds, apricots, once well tended, now grown wild. I never thought about it in Tel Aviv. But many of the Toot trees are very old, older than 1948.
They still give fruit to enthiousiastic children. Boys and girls dare each other climbing highest, reaching out for that very sweet dark red-black berry, a little further away than their small arms can reach, just like those little Palestinian children so many years ago.
A city map, of toot trees like a negative of a long lost photograph. If only one day little children could pick them together, and all their fights would be about "i dare you to pick that one...
If only.

5:39 PM  
Blogger lisoosh said...

I'm so glad you posted this. There are two trees with these berries near my home and I was just wondering if they were edible.

Now I know, off to pick them immediately.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yummy!!! have you tried the blue berries to? don't know if you have them in palestine but really good :)

8:12 PM  
Blogger Halla said...

I miss the toot & fig trees on my grandfathers land! We don't find them in here in California, otherwise I would be all over it. Thanx for the memories.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous koonj said...

We call them shehtoot in Urdu (toot in Punjabi). We have an enormous tree blocking the light in front of our house, dropping sticky yellow mulberries all over our doorstep, attracting mosquitoes and gnats and flies. yes, i dont love thme these days ;)

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Independence for the Gaza Strip is now about to come to an abrupt end, following months of thanking the Israelis for leaving with repeated terrorist attacks.

They will be coming for the soldier your beloved Hamas friends kidnapped with weapons hot. If you or your son are in the streets, you will die.

Be very afraid. Expect no sympathy. You waged war against Israel and now shall reap as you have sowed.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Abu Shaar said...

Thanks for sharing.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

isrehal invades steals palestine and creates illegal entity, engages in ethnic cleansing and genocide, attacks the rightful owners in their refugee camps, steals refugee camps too. with more ethnic cleansing and genocide and you aznon the pisreali jew say 'be very afraid'

in not in this life then the next we get to watch y0ou burn chosen burn

2:41 AM  
Blogger Mama Bird said...

I remember blackberries from my childhood in Central Virginia. They grow on bushes in or near wooded areas. They come ripe in the hot, steamy months of July & August. They're tart and juicy. My mom made pies, cobblers, and jams with them. And they are great by themselves with sugar on top. Since I moved to Southeastern Virginia, I've had a hard time finding them in the wild. We did find some growing next a movie theatre near the mall. When my husband and I were picking them, the theatre workers who were outside taking a smoke break looked at us like we were crazy. Fine with me. Then, they wouldn't pick them. The next year the bushes were gone. This year they're back. Oh boy, I'm going to make a pie this summer. Yum!

4:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Laila. I am an Indian girl. A couple of days ago I stumbled upon your blog and I am glad I did. I was aware about the Israeli occupation, but not fully aware of details. Your blog gave me a window to that world. Could you please recommend a site/book where I can get to know all about this conflict ? Also, about your current post, about toot, the world is indeed India, in the state I live in, we call it "tooti" and I personally, love it very much. Here too it is rare and expensive in cities, but in villages in the mountains, one can find it in abundance. Thanks for refreshing the memories. Keep up your good work.

10:02 AM  
Blogger TwennyTwo said...



We have a similar saying to your opening line, only it ain't about Palestinians. My father (rural Southern US Black man) used to tell us that his grandmother would make pies and tarts from mulberries. Where I grew up, the trees are plentiful- I know of a couple that are probably turning a sidewalk blue as we speak. It was how I knew that summer and the end of school and the hot days were coming- the blue sidewalks. That's why in the development (Fairfax VA) where I live they recently cut down all the mulberry trees. My uncle came outside and was like, "Did you know they cut the mulberry tree? When was this?"

Now I think the next time I find a tree intact (non-ethnic people just think they're pure bird attraction, not food) I think I'll pick some and make a cobbler. Yum! Thanks for that memory!


10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's really amazing that no matter what topic you discuss, no matter how seemingly innocuous, you are able to relate it to the "evil" Israelis.

I'll throw out a few words- cottage cheese, bicycle, yam- I'm sure somehow you could link all of those things to the territories. Talk about a one-track mind.

Let me try: thanks to the Palestinian terrorists' deadly attacks on Israel, the poor Palestinians often find themselves short of cottage cheese, bicycles, and yams because Israel must close border crossings to protect itself from those terrorist attacks. How'd I do?

2:31 PM  
Anonymous mike said...

I have some Cherokee ancestry on my mother's side of the family. My Cherokee grandfather, who knew a lot about traditional herbal medicine, claimed that the bark of the mulberry tree could be prepared into a drink which causes mental stimulation. I got the impression that it also might have been hallucinogenic.

Kind of strange. I've never read anything about it anywhere else.

1:08 AM  

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