Many of the plants you will find at the Fruit & Spice Park have been used throughout time in a variety of different ways. In the modern world, we tend to focus on just the fruit or edible part of the plant, but during the time when there were no grocery stores, restaurants or even Home Depots our ancestors figured out other uses for the materials around because they had to. Take for example: Bamboo. Bamboo is eaten as a young shoot, it’s tall, thin culms are made into a variety of wood products, clothing, charcoal and such. Moringa leaves, pods and seeds are all eaten. The seeds are pressed for oil, and the seed cake made from pressing is used for water purification. Another plant that has diverse uses is the Mulberry, Morus spp.
The mulberry is a tree that produces tasty, elongated, sweet fruits that range in color from red, to black, to white, and are made into delicious jams, pies, cordials, wines and herbal teas. The leaves are eaten by silkworms, and when the caterpillars are old enough and are ready to pupate, they produce a single strand of silk that they use to weave into a cocoon. The cocoons are gathered, un-wound and twisted into threads, then used to weave into silk fabric. Silk is still considered the finest of all fabrics—how fascinating to think of the interconnected natural world! Tree grows leaves. Insect eats leaves. Insect produces silk. Humans collect and weave into the finest of cloth—amazing!
There is another plant in the Park called a Sandpaper Mulberry, although it is not in the Morus genus, it is in the same family. This tree produces an edible fruit, but the real treasure is the inner bark, which is made into fabric. The inner bark is stripped from young trees, and softened in a process of soaking and pounding. The pliable fibers are then woven into a cloth called tapa. In the past tapa used to be a common material for clothing in the Pacific islands, but since the cloth has been replaced with cotton and man-made fabrics, it is now worn primarily on formal occasions, such as weddings.
These are just a few examples of the wonders to be discovered where people and nature come together. You can find these Mulberry trees for yourself in the Mediterranean section of the Fruit & Spice Park, just west of the Herb Garden.