In the adjacent lot there is a dying mulberry tree. It has been there since we moved in- forever in my boys’ eyes and it has rudely implanted itself into almost every memory of home. Last week I went to gather edible weeds from the wild patch that thrives in its shade. Only my youngest came along. Later as the family sat outside to eat lunch we looked across in that direction. “Do you remember when you belly flopped from the tree into the nettle, Uri?” asked his older brother. “You wouldn’t stop screaming!” But the pain has faded…. For them the tree was an oasis for the imagination and a place to escape the mundane. It is here they built rope swings and climbed into the tangle of branches to gather leaves for me to fill. Each spring, a rowdy flock of feral parakeets come to feast off the berries, defending their territory with a squawking cacophony. The tree used to stretch across the walkway and into our yard. Those walking under it would casually reach up to pick the fruit, tiptoeing ever higher as the season progressed. Nestled under its protective canopy grow the mallow and nettle I forage after the first winter rains. Sadly the limbs are drying out and one day, not far from now, the municipality will come and take it down.
Perhaps the loquat that sits stunted in the mulberry’s helm will take its place. But it won’t be the same. The loquat has no roots in my history- no funny stories, no connections. I didn’t even notice it until the dominate tree began its slow decline.
Still, there will be a day when I’ll look back and say,” Remember how many loquats we used to eat from that old tree? I’ve never tasted anything sweeter”
Chickpeas with wild edibles and labneh
This recipe was inspired by a tapas dish served at Shuk Hanamal’s Tapas Restaurant in Tel Aviv. Instead of spinach, I used the wild greens growing below the mulberry. During the Israeli winter wild edibles can be harvested from almost any open space, like in the pictures above near Rehovot.
1 cup of chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 large handful of edible wild greens such as mallow, nettle, mustard greens or chrysanthemums. Don’t use sorrel because heat turns it an icky color. If wild greens are not available use Swiss chard or spinach. Chop into large pieces
Labneh or Greek yogurt
1-2 onions, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Add the chickpeas to a pot and cover with water. Cook over medium heat until the chickpeas are soft but not falling apart. Add water if necessary to keep the chickpeas covered while cooking. Set aside.
In a frying pan- I use a cast iron skillet for this job- pour in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and fry on low heat until golden brown. Transfer to a plate.
In the same pan add another glug of olive oil and gently sauté the edible greens, in batches if necessary. Add a sprinkle of salt. Cook until wilted but not so long that it becomes mush.
With the back of a spoon, spread the labneh over a small plate so the sides are higher than the middle (the way hummus is usually served). Top with the wilted greens, the drained chickpeas and finally the caramelized onions. Add sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.