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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{ 21 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 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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15 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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16 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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17 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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18 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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19 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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20 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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21 Green Deane April 21, 2014 at 18:56

It is dried.

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