Last year, I discovered a huge tree, covered with black berries growing by the creek. I looked it up in my field guide and found out that it was a wild Mulberry tree and that the berries are edible and full of vitamin c, iron, calcium and protein. Later that day, I returned to the tree and filled several containers with ripe mulberries. My hands and fingernails were stained dark purple from all of the berry picking, but I didn’t care because I was on a wild mulberry high, from eating several straight off the tree.
When I arrived back home with my berry bounty, I looked up online what I could make with mulberries and was happy to find out that they are very versatile and can be used in a wide variety of recipes. They can be made into mulberry syrup, pancakes, muffins, pie, salsa, ice cream, smoothies, wine etc…They can also just be enjoyed raw, sprinkled on top of yogurt or morning cereal. Mulberries don’t last very long once they’re picked, so if you’re not going to eat them up a few days after harvesting, they can be frozen for future use. I’ve seen health food stores selling sun dried mulberries, so they could probably be sun dried at home to preserve them too.
Mulberry trees grow wild all over the world and are fairly easy to identify. The leaves form into 3 different shapes, all on the same tree- oval, mitten-shaped and three-lobed with a toothed edge and soft hairs on the underside. Mulberry trees are most often found growing close to water or in shady moist spots. They start producing berries in late spring and you can start picking them once they become ripe, usually around late May. Most mulberries turn a deep purple-black color when ripe, however, there are also mulberry trees that produce white colored ripe berries.
The berries are easy to harvest- just pick the plump, dark ripe ones by hand or spread a large tarp beneath a mulberry tree and shake the branches and the ripe ones will fall to the ground. If you want to harvest berries from the higher branches, use a sturdy ladder instead of climbing the tree, for your own safety and to avoid damaging the tree’s branches.
Mulberries have been highly valued throughout history, for both their sweet berry flavor and medicinal value. Mulberries contain high levels of reserveratrol, which is the same powerful antioxidant that is found in the skin of red grapes and red wine. Reserveratrol helps to prevent cellular damage by free radicals, reduces the growth of cancer cells, is good for maintaining a healthy heart and promotes longevity. Mulberries have been used medicinally by many cultures, especially the Chinese, to strengthen the kidneys, help with weakness and fatigue, reverse premature gray hairs, balance out blood sugar levels, promote restful sleep and to calm the mind.