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Beyond silk: good eating on 'the mulberry trail'

May 17 | Source: Shanghai Daily

People have fun at a mulberry picking field.
The mulberries contain a significant amount of vitamins and aliphatic acid.

MULBERRY leaves are the sole food source for silkworms, where they also make their cocoon that is used to make silk. Jiangnan (on the lower reaches of south Yangtze River region), as the traditional production center of silk for centuries, has the largest area of mulberry plantations in the country.

As silk production continues in rural areas, the mulberry trees have evolved into an epitome of classic Jiangnan villages, along with crisscrossed-watercourse scenery and black-roofed and white-walled houses.

The mulberries are popular with locals who help the silk industry. Their fruits are purple and have a sweet taste. The ripe mulberries are widely used in pies, wines and herbal teas. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that it can replenish spleen and liver, stimulate appetite and benefit eyes and hair.

Modern science has confirmed that the fruit contains a significant amount of vitamins and aliphatic acid, with properties of anti-aging, smoothing skin and lowering cholesterol. The ample nutrition and sweet taste of the fruits is why it is popular with locals.

Now the mulberries are about to ripen. Zhejiang Province has many plantations that produce quality, succulent mulberries and welcome guests who want to pick for themselves. Some plantations allow visitors to enter free, charging them only for the fruit they pick.

Shanghai Daily takes a look at three Zhejiang counties that specialize in mulberries. You can take a tour on weekends and enjoy plucking fruits.

Shangyu County 上虞县

Shangyu County is located between Hangzhou and Ningbo and lies across the Qiantang River from Shanghai.

The environment and temperature is suitable for a rich array of fruits. Crops include strawberries and cherries in spring, waxberries and grapes in summer, kiwis and peaches in autumn and persimmons in winter.

The mulberries produced in Shangyu are distinguished by their high quality and strong, sweet taste. Although some fetch as much as 20 yuan (US$2.98) apiece, the sales volume remains high every year.

Dingzhai Town is famous for the mulberry festival every May. The juicy fruit lures customers from far and away. Due to its location in a basin, the town has fluctuating temperatures, moisture in the air and abundant rainfall, making it ideal for mulberries.

The town’s mulberry plantations cover 73 hectares and the annual production reaches 1,200 tons. The town has already been known for its mulberries. The local government has given it a facelift, and residents built family-run guesthouses that offer homey accommodation and local food. Meanwhile, a cultural exhibition hall that displays its history of producing silk and the glory days of the town.

 

How to get there: Shanghai-Kunming Expressway — Changzhou-Taizhou Expressway — Hangzhou-Ningbo Expressway. Get off at Shangyu Exit.

Tongxiang County 桐乡县

Tongxiang is titled “the home of the mulberry” in Zhejiang Province, and for farmers there, it’s a commercial crop. It has a long history of producing silk. In ancient times, its silk products and mulberries were transported to royal court as tributes. Locals consider the fruit has higher nutrients than ginseng.

The county owns a mulberry industrial chain that includes a series of mulberry food and tourism activities. The unpolluted soil and fresh air endows the mulberries with a soft texture and mellow taste.

Locals have built happy farmhouses that integrate mulberry picking with local style picnics, attracting people to reminisce about their childhood experience.

Cooking at outdoors in May is a tradition for Tongxiang natives. People dig a fire pit in the wild to cook a meal with freshly picked vegetables and then share with family and friends.

Many farmhouses carve out space for outdoor cooking. When visitors finish picnicking, they can pick mulberries themselves.

After years of development, mulberry tourism has become a featured industry in the county. Some of the farmhouses have upgraded and host wedding ceremonies.

 

How to get there: Drive on Hangzhou-Ningbo Expressway and get off at Tongxiang Exit.

Fuyang County 富阳县

Fuyang features a high altitude and large temperature fluctuations — advantageous conditions for growing mulberries.

In recent years, farmers have begun to cultivate the red and purple varieties. In addition to the cultivated mulberries, it also features batch of wild mulberry trees.

In Xinsha Islet and Xindeng Town, locals climb mountains to reap the ripe, succulent mulberries, most of which they sell. Some plantations let tourists enter free, charging them only for the fruit they take away.

 

How to get there: Drive on Changchun-Shenzhen Expressway and get off at Fuyang Exit.



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