Persian mulberries are like fruit from a fairy tale: a familiar thing—the dark summer berry—transformed by preposterous imagination into something strange, enchanted and enchanting.
They grow not on brambles but in trees and are so fragile that they can hardly be picked without disintegrating. Their juice is an indelible dye of indescribable color, closest perhaps to the ancient Mediterraneans' Tyrian purple, the color Enobarbus had in mind when describing his queen Cleopatra's conveyance upon the Nile:
The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them.
In the mouth, mulberries are contradictory. They are liquid reservoirs and yet, unlike watery and insipid grapes, they have an intensely concentrated flavor. At first the taste seems too sweet—innocent and flamboyant—until, in the blink of an eye, it contracts into a dark inner core and reemerges as something something winelike and poignant. Mulberries are almost too much, but as with the rose window at Chartres, some mysterious proportion—of acid to sugar, earth to perfume, black to red—exalts the excess.