Friday, February 03, 2023 | Rajab 11, 1444 H
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It's the season of the mulberries

Arwa al Hashimi

Locally called "fursad'', Omani farmers had been growing mulberries along with other wild berries for as long as many people can remember.

Oman’s natural and geographical features have allowed for these berries to grow in abundance and the season is also a big contributing factor that different fruit trees and crops thrive in different parts of the country.

Fursad is a distinct summer fruit that has become popular among the local population both young and old alike. Available in large quantities, the fruits had made it into local supermarkets all around Oman.

The berry size varies from one place to another depending on the weather and soil condition. In Jabal Akhdhar, the berries are known to grow larger than in other areas of Oman because of the unique temperature that is mostly cold throughout the year.

Some farmers shared that they'd been seeing the fruits grown in the last 50 years. Almost every house in Oman located in the mountains has one or more mulberry trees. Other than the fruit, it has also become an ornamental plant prized for its beautiful colours and lush shade.

Mulberries are distinguished by their colours “black, red and white.” They usually start white, then becomes red as they mature and turns black when ripe and ready for eating. The flavour profile also varies. Some are very sour while others are sweet as honey. Whether big or small is not an indicator of what the taste would be like.

Surprisingly, most Omanis like to eat the fruit when it is half-ripe as they like the mixed sweetness and sourness.

Mulberries are bred and propagated by cutting during January and February or by grafting during October to November or February to March. It is preferable to plant berries in medium soil with low salinity. Additionally, the mulberry tree does not prefer excessive moisture. Although its root system is strong and deep in the soil, it is affected by drought. Summer parcels remain short and low humidity causes curling of the leaves. And the most successful varieties of it are jumbo berries (red-white). Additionally, berries bloom in March and watering should be reduced as much as possible to prevent flowers from dropping.

Berries are pruned in December and January. At the beginning of the tree’s life, it must go through pruning. Pruning must take place during the fruiting stage. Medium pruning includes the removal of knots and diseased wood. The infection of berries is usually limited to spiders or smut that affects the stem and must be combated with a special type of pesticide.

The berries are fertilised with compost during December and January at a rate of 20 kg per tree. They are also fertilised with a batch of chemical fertiliser at a rate of 1.5 kg per tree during February, NPK 15 - 15 – 15 which means that the fertiliser used has equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Berries need moderate irrigation, especially in summer, and it must be reduced during winter so that the leaves do not fall.

When the berries are ready to be picked, people gather under the trees before sunrise. They spread old mats and carpets on the ground to prevent the berries from mixing with dirt. Farmers will spend the early morning hours harvesting by shaking the trees.

Mulberries have many health benefits that have been known since ancient times, as they were used as anti-inflammatories and used to cure rheumatism and acts as diuretics and laxatives for the intestines, in addition to their use as treatments for stomach disorders and urinary problems.

Many Omanis have pleasant memories of mulberry trees and their fruits. In summary, they love it for its delightful taste, the ample shade it provides that's a life-saver in summer and the amazing effects it has on health when eaten.

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