Ripening "red" mulberries. Photo by Green Deane

Ripening “red” mulberries. Photo by Green Deane

Mulberries: Glucose-controlling hallucinogen

I used to get a lot of dates using mulberries.

Not to sound sexist, but most women like men who can cook. And when the mulberries were in season I would ply a young lass or two with mulberry pie  or sorbet explaining this was a delicious concoction unavailable anywhere else, kind of like me ….hint-hint, wink-wink. It worked so well that every season (before I owned my own land) I would scout out available mulberry trees and ladies and plan to match them up for gastro-amorous intentions. Now I own a highly-productive mulberry tree… and the romance is still working.

Mulberries, in my case, Morus rubra (MOE-russ RUBE-ruh) are full of life. One spring I trimmed my mulberry and used the branches for stakes. They rooted and grew. Not one to get in nature’s way I dug them up, gave them to a friend, and they are still growing.

Unripe red mulberries, young leaves edible cooked

Mulberries are native to North America and also introduced. Their berries are extremely healthy, and other parts of the tree have medical uses as well. The berry is used in pies, tarts, wines and cordials. Cooked, such as in muffins, they are much like blueberries in flavor. The Black Mulberry and Red Mulberry, the latter native to eastern North America, have the strongest flavor. The Asian Mulberry, naturalized in urban areas, is edible but a clear distant third in taste. Mature fruit of all are packed with reseveratrol. Unripe fruit and mature leaves have a white sap that’s intoxicating and mildly hallucinogenic. White Mulberry tea quite popular  in Japan. White Mulberry leaves  are also the sole food source for the silkworm (Bombyx mori, named after the Mulberry genus Morus). The worms are edible cooked but not that tasty.

Mulberry leaves can help regulate blood sugar levels, and reportedly play a role in losing weight by controlling sugar cravings. They are also is a source of Vitamin C and carotene. Mulberries have anthocyanins which are edible pigments commonly called antioxidants. Young leaves cooked are edible

The Mulberry Shaped Portion of Greece. Green Deane's family is from south of Sparta, about half-way down the peninsula, The Mani.

The Mulberry Shaped Portion of Greece. Green Deane’s family is from south of Sparta, about tow-thirds the way down the peninsula, The Mani.

As for the name, Ruba is red. Morus is a bit more involved.  A Babylonian story later incorporated into Greek mythology attributes the reddish color of the mulberry fruit to the tragic death of lovers. The Greek god Moros, who drove men to their fate, arose from that and where we get the English word, through Dead Latin,  “morose.”  Contemporary Greeks call the mulberry Mouro and southern Greece, Peloponnese, is often called Mora because it is roughly shaped like a mulberry leaf.

At one time the Paper Mulberry was grouped with other mulberries, and is closely related, but is now called Broussonetia papyrifera (broo-soh-NEE-she-uh pap-ih-RIFF-er-uh.)   Its fruit is edible and it can grow into a very large tree. Here in the South, it’s a linden-like tree that often defies identification.  Its young leave are also edible when cooked,  however, they are chewy. To see a separate entry on Paper Mulberry go here.

Nutritionally, the mulberry berries area powerhouse:  They’re low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, iron, dietary fiber, riboflavin, magnesium and potassium, about 4.5 carbs per 100 grams, 120 calories.  Mulberry  leaves are consider animal food if not intoxicating to people. But young leaves are edible cooked, boiled or stir-fried. Fresh mulberry leaves are 71.13 to 76.68% moisture, 4.72 to 9.96% crude protein, 4.26 to 5.32%  total ash, 8.15 to 11.32% Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF), 0.64 to 1.51% crude fat, 8.01 to 13.42% carbohydrate and 69 to 86 kcal/100 g for energy. Ascorbic acid ranged from 160 to 280mg/100g β-carotene from 10,000.00 to 13,125.00 μg/100 g, respectively. Iron, zinc and calcium ranged from 4.70-10.36 mg/100 g for iron, 0.22-1.12 mg/100 g for zinc, and 380-786 mg/100 g, for calcium.

The following recipes from Living off the Land and Wild Edibles by the late Marian Van Atta, whom I knew some 35 years ago:

Marian van Atta

Mulberry Pie: One baked 9″ pie crust. 4 c. Stemmed mulberries. 1/4 c. Cornstarch. 3/4 c. Sugar. 1/2 c. Water. 2 T. Lemon or Lime juice. — Add sugar to mulberries in a saucepan. Mix cornstarch with water. Add to berries. Add juice. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and juice becomes clear. Pour into bake pies shell. Cool and serve.

Mulberry Vinegar: In a large bowl, place 3 quarts clean mulberries. Mash and pour 3 cups of boiling-hot white vinegar over berries. Cover with a towel and for 3 days, mix fruit with a wood spoon. Strain juice trough jelly bag. To each cup juice add one cup sugar. Boil together for 5 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. When ready to use, pour 2 T. Mulberry vinegar in an 8 ounce glass. Fill with water and ice.

Mulberry Sauce: To four cups of mulberries add 1 1/2 c. Brown sugar, 1 t. each of cloves and allspice, to mashed berries. Bring to boil. Simmer until thick stirring often. Bottle and seal.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Mulberries are fast-growing but rarely exceed 40 feet, easily trained to be short and easy to harvest. Leaves  alternate, simple, often lobed, toothed on the edge. The fruit is about an inch long changing from white to red to dark purple or black. Reminds one of a long blackberry, will stain your fingers purple.

TIME OF YEAR: Fruits in late spring, what ever that might be in your climate.

ENVIRONMENT: Likes moist soil and prefers hardwood forests. However, in Florida they frequent abandoned truck farms and other fields. Often are found growing by hotel and apartment complexes parking lots, and roadsides.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Out of hand or for anything one would use a blackberry, strawberry or blueberry for.  Young leaves of any of the mulberry species cooked, though they can be tough.

 

 

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cal October 28, 2012 at 15:31

Great post. I’m looking to get several white mulberries to grow along a fence line. May have to trim them a good bit to keep them more like a hedge.

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2 Steph Tietjen November 6, 2012 at 12:59

It’s great news that the Mulberry leaves are edible; I just gave some to my chickens. I’ve wanted to grow their food on the property and had not thought of this. Thank you!

I have two giant Mulberries, a fruitless variety that I think were planted by the builders of this property about 55-60 years ago (there are many of these in the neighborhood). I love the shade they provide, but have always thought it is too bad there’s no fruit.

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3 johanna February 5, 2013 at 18:41

can a fruitless mulberry become fruitful, or a pollinator, if another mulberry is present?
how is the fruitless one related to the fruited one?

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4 Green Deane February 5, 2013 at 19:31

Fruitless varieties are usually sterile ornamentals. They make fruitless mulberries so the fruit doesn’t drop and cause a mess on sidewalks and the like.

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5 johanna February 5, 2013 at 19:51

thank you very much-
what a bummer (and a waste :( )
however, the leaves must still be edible?
and it certainly is a hardy prolific tree out here in NO CA… the wood from pruning it has been GREAT kindling as well. and it grows more super quickly :)

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6 Erica W July 8, 2013 at 02:50

You might be able to graft branches from a fruitful mulberry onto an ornamental. Haven’t done it myself, but seems worth looking into. (You could even graft fruit branches onto the ‘yard’ side and not the ‘sidewalk’ side, to please whoever invented the silly thing in the first place.)

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7 Donna February 28, 2013 at 19:30

My mulberry now has green blossoms all over it, but no leaves yet. Out of curiosity I sampled a blossom and it tastes very starchy and mild. I wonder if it could be used as a bush food source of carbohydrates? or if eaten raw would the blossoms have any hallucinogenic effects like the green berries? What do you think?

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8 Martha J. Cote' May 20, 2013 at 09:38

Mulberry trees are male & female. Like some grapes, you need at least 1 pollinator. I’m lucky to have such a tree and am currently enjoying lots of berries.

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9 Green Deane May 20, 2013 at 14:32

Some times the blossoms are on separate trees but usually on commercial ones the tree is self-pollinating.

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10 Survival Gardener/David The Good April 4, 2014 at 10:51

In my understanding, the cultivated varieties are all female. If there’s a male pollinator, the berries contain seeds. If not, they’re seedless. Either way, a female tree will set fruit. Some of the so-called “fruitless” mulberry trees are simply cloned males.

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11 Richard W April 8, 2014 at 15:30

I have a singular mulberry tree that is 4 years out of the nursery, and it is already producing fruit.

One other thing that is nice about mulberries is that they are usually the first fruit out, here in Maine.

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12 Ronyon August 3, 2013 at 18:50

The edibility of the leaves brings up a question that has been dogging my mind for a while. Often plants have leaves that are descibed as edible when young. For some like Poke (?)there may be toxins that get stronger with age. More often this is not mentioned. Rather increasing toughness of the leaves is cited. Given how tough grape leaves ,cabbage, collards and otherr domesticated greens can be, plus the health benefits of fiber, should we consider eating these older leaves?

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13 Green Deane August 3, 2013 at 19:25

I think we don’t eat older mulberry leaves because of chemicals not texture et cetera.

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14 Kim December 4, 2014 at 03:21

Hiya
Am I correct in assuming that Mulberry berries can be eaten by humans but not the leaves?
Thanks for your help
Kim

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15 Green Deane December 4, 2014 at 07:09

No, as the article states young mulberry leaves can be cooked and eaten.

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16 Jeff September 1, 2013 at 18:11

So…….reading between the lines here you used a hallucinogenic to woo the women? Joking…..great article and entertaining as always.

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17 JamesM April 3, 2014 at 14:18

I made an acidified straight run mulberry wine last year( need sugar too of course). I usually find the juice to be a bit bland and cloying , but when adding an acid its just fantastic, just like the wine. My favorite is lime. So I think I will try a lime mulberry wine this year.

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18 Survival Gardener/David The Good April 4, 2014 at 10:54

You’re totally right on the vigor of these trees. I don’t know why they aren’t planted more often. They’re an ideal – and delicious – tree for Florida. I started carrying them in my plant nursery. Once people realize how fast they grow, how well they bear and how excellent the fruit are, the trees practically fly out the door.

Why bother with trying to grow strawberries or blackberries when you can get 100 times the yield with no work?

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19 Capt. Randall April 8, 2014 at 10:53

I found a “Pakistani” mulberry fr a Va mailorder edibles nursery..It has 3″ long fruits w a sweet raspberry flavor… to go with 3 other cultivars I planted around my chicken coop. The leaves have extraordinary healing properties. Absence of a late frost in N. Florida portends the first taste in 4-5 yrs…Time now to taste and locate cuttings for easy rooting later toward summer..

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20 David Bostock April 20, 2014 at 13:06

The nursery I went to ( Pine Island ) long ago had two cultivars. I bought both the Pakistani & Illinois Everbearing. They survived on a South East balcony with a nearby building. The Illinois did much better in the short duration Sun, but died from lack of water when I was away for too long. The Pakistani has never had much fruit, but is still in a container but now in full Sun with bird netting on it, so I can get a little fruit which comes off at a mere touch when ripe. Netting also keeps the Iquanas from reducing the tree to a stick. Both cultivars are black mulberries.

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21 Mitzi Giles April 20, 2014 at 19:28

We have both an American and a Pakistan. The Pakistan is edible as soon as it turns red, not many hang on the tree till they reach black. They release their hold on the tree for the mildest wind. We check under the tree morning and evening for berries. In south central FL (Lake Placid) we get 2 crops a year.

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22 Maria C April 21, 2014 at 15:53

Can I make mulberry tea using young raw leaves??? Or do they need to be sundried first???

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23 Green Deane April 21, 2014 at 18:56

It is dried.

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24 Jim Brewer May 20, 2014 at 14:02

This is a site related to the mulberry plant and how it’s leaves are converted to silk. In think your readers will enjoy it.
http://www.wormspit.com/

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25 Deborah June 19, 2014 at 03:39

Has anybody tried growing a mulbery in a large patio pot, or is there a variety sitting to container gardening?

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26 Green Deane June 19, 2014 at 14:50

I haven’t done so but I am sure it would be quite happy as long as it was not overwatered. Mulberries are full of life and love to grow.

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27 Tim July 10, 2014 at 17:37

Deer love mulberries. They eat the thin branches down to the trunk and will nibble the twigs in winter too. Small saplings can get eaten down to the ground. Mulberries are invasive, tough trees and and grow in the worst soil. One place I lived, I constantly had seedlings coming up in my gravel driveway. What I didn’t transplant, I would mow. They’d just grow back up from the roots but a little bit bushier each time. If you’ve ever wanted to practice pruning and training trees, mulberries are great candidates. You won’t hurt them a bit. But it’s good to hack them back regularly to keep the branches low to where they are easily picked of their berries. If you don’t let it grow a main trunk by hacking it down to the ground when its only a couple feet tall, they will bush out well.

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28 Michael Wilson July 15, 2014 at 16:09

Mulberries grow insanely up here. I’m constantly pulling them out of the ground, or trying to, to keep them from places I don’t want them. Unfortunately, the birds are huge seed spreaders and so I’ve got seedlings pretty much everywhere.

But I do have four or five mature trees on the property and I just love the berries. As soon as they turn a pinkish-white, I start on them. Yes, black is the sweetest, but a nice tart mulberry can be especially refreshing on a hot day.

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29 Joseph August 20, 2014 at 12:17

This tree self seeds in abandoned lots, sidewalk cracks, fence lines, rocky areas, and woodland edges….the fruit makes a huge mess if near a walkway but otherwise pigeons and other wildlife gobble up all the fallen berries. Many of these self seeded trees turn out to be male (fruitless) I will be taking some cuttings from a heavy fruiting female to plant on my property this year as the fruit yield is superb and the tree aesthetically pleasing. I am very happy to learn that the leaves are also edible when young.

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30 sue August 20, 2014 at 13:19

I was trimming some wild growing branches and I got some sap in my eye. there was a little bit of irritation; took out my contacts and washed out my eye for a minute .. does anyone know if I should be concerned? thanks.

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31 Satya September 1, 2014 at 02:47

Hi Sue,

Read you request today on mulberry express and wondered what treatment you did with mulberry sap in your eye apart from washing with water and how it turned out?
Satya

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32 Cindy September 4, 2014 at 17:48

I live in Southern CA and would like to purchase a fruiting mulberry tree. I have seen the Pakistan variety recommended as being “raspberry like” in flavor and also saw a black variety recommended, I think the Illinois. Any suggestions which variety to purchase if I’m mainly purchasing it for the fruit? Thanks

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33 Jack Notestein September 27, 2014 at 23:31

After reading the article on Mulberries, I remember the large tree my grandmother had here in Sarasota, Florida. The fruit is quite tasty and of coarse, they almost indelibly stain anything they touch. My grandmother would pick a “wild lemon” (any lemon or lime will work about as well) and we would rub the juice on our fingers, turning the blue stain to a red color which could then be easily removed with soap. Washing first and only with soap would simply set the stain which would then have to wear off. I thought this would be interesting to others. JN

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34 Bobbi October 18, 2014 at 13:12

Grew up with a large mulberry tree right in the middle of the large chicken pen. Those chickens loved the berries but so did we. I suppose the chickens were very healthy and producing extra healthy eggs for us daily. I was always sad when I’d get home from school one day and find Father had executed the entire flock (including my “pet” chicken I’d named and of course only I could identify) and had buckets of boiling water set up for us and Mother to defeather and process the chickens for the freezer. In Spring we’d get another 24 chicks and go another round. Nothing better than putting my hand under a warm chicken when she stood up in her nest and started cackling until she finally dropped a warm brown egg into my hand. One of those wonderful childhood memories that none of the other kids at school got t experience since they lived in town. Now that I know about Mulberries, I appreciate them even more. Incredible good health, never a cavity, look 20 years younger than I am – the fresh veggies and fruits we grew and the well water were a big part too. And boy, did we beg for Wonderbread and other nasty processed foods we never got thanks to Father’s belief in whole grains and homegrown food even if you could afford grocery food. I think I will look about and find myself a Mulberry tree to grow! Thank for all the info.

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35 Dave B. October 25, 2014 at 11:48

See my balcony post above. I prefer the taste of the Pakistani and when the plant is doing well the berries are large but very very few on the one I grew in the pot. Given a choice between the too I’d go with the Illinois everbearing. Pot I still have the Pakistani in was made from a large round plastic tub inside diameter about 19″ depth about 17″ . Around the bottom are 4 equaly spaced holes about 2.5″ in diameter made with a hole saw for installing door locks ( goes in an electric drill ). Hole bottoms are 2″ from container bottom and have 4″ square plastic window screen patches on the inside for drainage. Garden soil, fruit tree fertilizer on a schedule in an appropriate amount and full sun should lead to a usefull amount of fruit from an Illinois. Trim the top as needed. Both of these cultivars will sprout new branches from lower on the trunk than existing branches.

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36 Natschultz October 28, 2014 at 02:11

PLEEEASE, DO NOT PLANT WHITE MULBERRIES in the USA!!! They are INVASIVE beyond belief! You CANNOT KILL THEM!

Please, if you plant a mulberry, plant a native RED mulberry because they are in danger of extinction do to hybridization with the Asian white. Or, especially in warmer parts, plant a BLACK mulberry (the variety known throughout Europe and the nursery rhyme), as they are NOT invasive.

Seriously, I LOVE MULBERRIES, and I had a random tree planted by a bird that I kind of liked, thought was a mulberry, but had no fruit. I brought a branch to my local nursery, he took one look at it and told me “That’s a “Rat Tree” CUT IT DOWN!” He said it was a mulberry, but probably male since it never set fruit. I left it, hoping it would fruit. It never did.

A few years later, I prepared a nice hole to plant a Linden tree; sadly the tree I bought had horribly girdled roots (worse than anything I’d ever seen, like numerous Celtic knots intertwined), so I decided to put the tree out of its misery rather than return it to be sold to an unsuspecting customer.

I filled the hole in, and the next spring I went to prepare the hole for a new tree, but it was LOADED with all these orange roots. I was so confused. I cut the roots back from the hole, then started pulling them up, and pulling, and pulling, and pulling. I finally realized, OMG!!! It’s the roots from that mulberry! They had taken over the ENTIRE GARDEN (a perennial garden). So, that was it, I got the chainsaw and chopped the tree down. Within a few weeks, I had a giant multi-stemmed coppiced bush/tree. But, I liked the look of it, so I left it.

BAD MOVE! The roots of the mulberry TOOK OVER MY GARDEN WITH A VENGEANCE! Not only that, but there were seedlings popping up everywhere, and whenever I removed a root, even if just a tiny piece was left in the ground, it would grow like crazy. Any root I cut, the next day would not only have grown, but shot so deep into the ground I could not remove it all. I’d never seen anything like it! I ended up digging huge holes throughout the garden and leaving the roots exposed for years.

So I did some research and found out that it was either a White or Paper Mulberry; both from Asia and both VERY INVASIVE! I heard all these crazy storied of branches growing from woodpiles, which I did not believe at the time. I was told the only way to kill it was to cut it down, and drill holes into the stump and fill it with Sevin and keep doing that until it stopped coming back to life. So I did that, and then cut and exposed its roots, since I was unable to remove the stump. I tossed the branches into my woodshed on top of the logs, not believing that they could live on air alone. There were no leaves on the branches when I tossed them on the woodpile. Then, about a month later, I went to the woodshed, and WTH???!!! THE BRANCHES HAD LEAVES!!! HOW??? They were in a COVERED woodshed, not in soil, and with no rain! I could not believe it, so I did the only thing that works: I tossed them into the woodstove!

Finally, after a few years, that bloody tree was DEAD! Although I still found seedlings everywhere for close to 10 years (I think there must be a fruiting tree nearby). I still find them sometimes.

Anyway, I replaced that DEVIL TREE (white mulberry) with two new mulberries: a native red and a European black, both from Oikos Tree Crops. I live in New York, and the native red has grown super fast and beautifully, finally setting fruit this year (but it all fell off before ripening). The black one, well, it is a lot smaller (about 12 feet tall) and it appears very weak, with smaller leaves that turn yellow in August / Sept and the leaves have lots of brown spots. I think it is too cold here. The red one grew so fast that it has been limbed up numerous times with no ill effects.

So please, if you are going to plant a mulberry, plant a NICE RED or BLACK one that will NOT take over the neighborhood (or entire continent, as it seems)!

BTW: I love your site!

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