Who doesnt love the idea of free fruit that falls from the sky!
The mulberry tree (Morus spp.) is a beautiful giant with over 300 varieties worldwide. At their ripened stage, the berries range in colors from black, red, white, and purple. In this article, I will be discussing 3 commonly found species: Morus nigra (Black Mulberry), M. rubra (Red Mulberry), and M. alba (White Mulberry). There can actually be many colors of berry ripened on one tree as they are prone to hybridization, and for the hungry forager, if you’ve got ripe mulberries then eat up and enjoy!!
Mulberries are a delicious and versatile snack that are sold in many health food stores. Because of their short shelf life, they are first dehydrated and then packaged in plastic while the labels read “Turkish super fruit – Harvested from Turkey”. Not exactly a sustainable purchase. Meanwhile, a barrage of mulberries litter our neighborhood streets and most people don’t even realize it. They are too busy jogging and driving on them to stop and ask the question, “Hmm I wonder what this is? Is it edible?”
Fortunately for people like me (opportunivores), that leaves a whole bounty of unchecked fruit pouring from the sky waiting to be harvested and shared with friends. Go out and look around! They are more abundant than you think, check neighborhoods, parks, recreation centers and the occasional strip mall (not recommended for harvest).
The leaves are actually the sole diet for the silkworm which is why some of the nativeAsian varieties were imported here. They tried and tried to create a silk industry in America but failed. So we have worms to thank for an even greater abundance of local mulberries! Mulberry leaves are also a very characteristic attribute to learning to identify the trees when they are not fruiting since they have a longer season than the fruits, but obviously shedding them too in the winter months.
This odd sign on the street is a sign of unrecognized gold! Most would walk past this and see crud on the pavement, but I would suggest, it’s a good time to get on your knees, look up and thank the heavens (or at least the trees) for the glorious bounty you have been offered!
Harvest and Preparation
You can find white and red mulberries fruiting in late spring, while black mulberries can be found up until August. Mulberries are so special that they let you know when they are ripe. The best ones to pick are off the ground. That is the trees way of letting you know which berries it has perfectly ripened in offering to the 2 and 4 legged. A great way to collect mulberries is to lie out a tarp or blanket under each limb as you gently shake to allow the ripened fruits to fall. If you pick them from the tree and they don’t literally fall off the tree from touching them alone then they won’t be ripe and you will surely be convinced that your store bought ones have added sugar!
If you plan to eat them raw, they have a very short life in the refrigerator, about 3 days (which is why you don’t see them fresh in the store), so don’t collect a bunch and then waste some (bad for the animals). However, you can dehydrate mulberries in the sun, just make sure animals won’t get to them and bring them in at night, or put them in a dehydrator. Once they are fully dry, they will keep all year until next season!
Mulberries are very high in antioxidants and help the body cleanse damaged cells that lead to many complications. They also contain large amounts of vitamin C as well as Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, really high levels of Iron, and Dietary Fiber, which all help to give the body and mind incredible energy to live happy and healthy lives! Due to the high energy content and virtually nonexistent fat content, they make a great snack to help lose weight. They are also high in minerals like potassium, manganese, and magnesium and contain the B vitamins, B6, Niacin, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid.
Mulberries contain flavonoids and phyto-nutrients and are extremely high in anthocyanins which help to fight against cancer as well as reduce aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections. The berries also contain resveratrol, a powerful blood flow increasing antioxidant which you have probably heard promoted through the wine industry as their new claim to fame (Although many “weeds” such as Japanese knotweed are around 300 times higher). Resveratrol is a powerful healer for many conditions such as aging diseases, inflammation, and a number one go to as part of an herbal protocol for the treatment of Lyme disease (Having had Lyme, I’ve felt and seen those effects).
Added Healing Benefits of Discovering Mulberries
I, of course, always leap at any opportunity to teach more people about wild foods and the ecological importance of caretaking the earth, guitar students included. So when I had discovered an unripe mulberry tree not too far from one student’s house, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to collect some and show them! I harvested only a few as the tree wasn’t ripe, but I knew if she and her mother ate a few, it would unlock a door of realization.
As I knocked on their door and presented the few berries in my hands, Esha, my 8 year old student exclaimed, “Those are mulberries? We have them all over the driveway!” Lo and behold, I had just drove under one of the mightiest and heaviest fruit bearing trees I had ever seen! With haste, we all began to joyously scoop up handfuls and filling buckets. I soon saw them sharing in the same ecstasy that I feel when I discover such a treasure trove!
Within minutes, daughter, mother, and aunt were scooping up mulberries along with me! They had dropped all inhibitions and forgotten that people might think they were weird for picking stuff up off the ground and eating it in their “normal” neighborhood. It opened them up to the wild of the world. They were ALIVE!!
Soon, Esha’s mother was spreading blankets on the ground for easy collection the following day while they all were picking away! Joy and shock was beaming over their faces. It couldn’t be this easy, could it?
Esha kept exclaiming that she couldn’t believe that these were in her front yard in which I got the opportunity to share that nature provides sacred prasad (holy offerings) to us and we just forgot how to see it. In previous conversations, Esha’s mother had talked about how they had sprayed their lawn in which I took the opportunity to ask, “Now will you not spray your lawn?” Thank you mulberries and Nature for opening up another family to your sacred and special holy offerings. Returning them one step closer to realizing that they ARE nature and no one can take that away!
Look at the joy!
Here is also an instructional video on how I harvest at my mulberry spots:
Further Suggested Reading: Foraging Articles
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