Mulberries are the fruit of my childhood. They are the first berries of the summer harvest. Their deliciously sweet fruits are one to two inches long and look like blackberries but grow on trees. Mulberries can be white, pink, or, most commonly, a purplish red, almost black color. Mulberries are prized by food foragers but are also easily grown in the backyard. Because they are delicate and do not have a long shelf life, they do not often appear in markets. Mulberry trees make an excellent edible landscape if your goal is to turn your yard into an edible garden, which is exactly my gardening plan!
Learn From the Olive Pickers
There are two methods for picking mulberries. On a younger tree, if the branches are low hanging, you can gently hand-pick them. Do not layer the berries too deep in the container because they are delicate, and the berries on the bottom will get crushed. The other method is used when the branches are too high and the fruit isn’t easy to reach. This is the same method used to harvest olives. I use an old canvas sheet that I spread under the mulberry tree and shake the branches. Or, I leave the sheet on the ground overnight and wait for them to shake off the ripened fruit. Warning: mulberries temporarily will stain anything they touch.
We Have Competition
Humans love mulberries, and they are irresistible to birds and other animals as well. Cardinals, woodpeckers, bluebirds, orioles, tanagers, and warblers all love to eat them, and so do raccoons, foxes, and squirrels, but there is plenty to share.
Ancient and Modern Medicine
White mulberries are highly valued in Chinese medicine. Modern medicine recognizes mulberries for their vitamin C content, iron, calcium, and potassium and their anti-inflammatory properties.
Mulberries taste best fresh, but they can be made into jams, pies, or frozen. They can also be fermented into kombucha, and they make excellent use as a natural dye. For a refreshing cocktail, use mulberry juice in a simple syrup, or try pairing mulberries with lemon balm, basil, or verbena.
The mulberry bush (Morus) originated in China but has now spread around the world. It has long been long cultivated for its leaves that feed silkworms. The production of silk originated in China 8,000 years ago, and they maintained a monopoly over silk production for thousands of years. The Chinese closely guarded their silk production as a state the secret. Around 500 CE, two Roman monks stole silkworm larvae by hiding them in their walking canes.
Learn more about the 4 000 miles long Silk Road, where silk and other ancient goods were traded, here.
The white mulberry leaves are the food and housing for silkworms. Silkworms feed on the leaves for about six weeks and then turn into caterpillars. For the next eight days, they spin their cocoon, which encloses the worm, during this metamorphosis. However, this last stage is disrupted in the silk factory, where the cocoon is gently taken apart, and the threads cleaned and wound onto a reel. One cocoon can produce a 109-yads long silk “cobweb” like a thread (technically called gossamer) that is about 0.00098425197 inches thick.
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