Mulberry fields (forever)

29 08 2013

We crammed an awful lot into just one day on March 12th. After Sites 2 & 3 of the Plain of Jars we headed back into town for lunch. The group split up, to avoid overloading a single restaurant, and the two of us eventually opted for one of those deserted places that might turn out to be a terrible mistake. In fact we were served some of the best food we’d had in Lao: fried spring rolls and veg fried rice with really tasty, fiery dipping sauces. It was local food that hadn’t been made bland for tourists.

Midway through our meal a stream of people appeared from the floor above and exited through the restaurant, driving off in Toyota Hilux trucks with tinted windows. We couldn’t decide if they were office workers or local mafia.

After lunch, to Mulberries to meet the silkworms who’d made the scarves I bought in Luang Prabang.

In case of doubt

in case there was any doubt

We wandered through the mulberry fields, where all the production is organic, picking and eating the fruit, and thence into a shed where the worms live. The baby ones were tiny, but the older ones were unexpectedly large.

not twiglets

not twiglets

The larvae eat for several days, then sleep for several days in a cycle that changes as they age. Then they pupate and produces the all important cocoons.

let's pupate

cocooned

To recover the silk thread, the cocoons are put into boiling water. Stirring them around with a stick picks up the threads and they are then unwound by hand into long strands.

unwinding

A native cocoon produces about 300m of silk, a hyrid 700m.

winding

After the cocoon has been removed the pupae are edible, and no potential source of food in wasted in Lao. Nothing is wasted in Lao.

dyed

All the dyes at Mulberries are natural materials. The different colours and their sources were shown on charts. Of course we spent lots of time browsing the goods in the shop – it’s only polite – but sadly there was nothing other than a packet of mulberry leaf tea with my name on it.

orange

I did wish that they had yarn for sale, as well as woven goods – it would have been fabulous to buy laceweight silk yarn to crochet a shawl for myself.

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