Last night, as Chris and I were walking in the back meadow, near the woods, we discovered a mulberry tree. We had been looking at a wild blackberry bush and talking about when the blackberries might be ripe when Chris looked up and saw a nearby tree covered with what appeared to be blackberries.
After some discussion and examination of the berries on the tree, we decided that they must be wild blackberries, or at least a close cousin of the blackberry. Chris ate a couple and declared them to be good. I was praying that they weren’t poisonous.
Once home, a little research revealed that the berries were not blackberries, but mulberries. More research showed that they are quite rich in resveratol, a natural anti-oxidant, along with an abundant amount of vitamins. According to nutritiondata.self.com, mulberries contain significant amounts of Vitamin C and K, as well as good amounts of Vitamins E, B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, and Niacin. They also contain a good amount of fiber, iron, minerals, protein, and even Omega-6 fatty acids.
We found that the mulberries are sweet, but mild tasting. Picking them was very easy. I held a large bowl under the branches and sort of swiped the berries into the bowl. The ripe ones just fall off with very little effort.
Ripe mulberries are a dark blue-purple-black (see photo). The underripe ones are still red or pink and are a little too tart (there are a few of them in the photo, too). The white berries should be completely avoided and considered possibly dangerous – I was not able to verify the accuracy, but I read several internet reports that the white, unripe mulberries will cause great stomach and gastronomical distress and can also be a mild hallucinogenic. That was enough warning for me and didn’t really matter because the underripe ones are very firmly attached to the tree and not easily picked.
Mulberries are very fragile and last only a day or two in the refrigerator before they start to get mushy and moldy. They should be eaten or frozen as soon as possible. They can also be used in recipes and will substitute for most recipes that call for blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or most any small berry.
I have found another reason that mulberries aren’t sold in stores … well, three reasons, actually. First they come firmly attached to their green stem. You’ll see them in the photo above – little lime green stems that have to be clipped, cut or otherwise removed from the berries. (Not necessary if you are going to cook and strain the berries, such as when making a jelly or a juice.) It’s a LOT of work to remove the stems from each berry and I hope you have someone to have a good conversation with to help you pass the time while you are de-stemming each and every little berry.
Second, the berries are so delicate that even gently touching them stains your hands and clothing deep purple. I found that wearing gloves and an old shirt while working with the berries was about the only way to keep your hands and clothes from turning splotchy purple.
And third, mulberries have lots of tiny bugs – usually tiny white aphids – on them. You won’t notice them until you get them home. They are supposedly harmless to eat, so don’t worry if you ate a few mulberries while you were picking them. To get rid of the bugs, just put the berries in a big bowl or pan and generously cover them with fresh water. Let them sit for at least 10-15 minutes. Skim off any floating bugs. They will be mostly very, very tiny but you’ll know them because they do squirm. Then rinse the mulberries thoroughly several times. Oddly enough, the berries hold up quite well during the rinsing process. I even used the sink aerator to spray them.
If freezing them, let them dry a bit on paper towels, them bag them and put them in the freezer. They will freeze well, and should last well in the freezer. Thawed mulberries will be good for cereal or ice cream toppings, smoothies, or for baking.
If using them fresh, be sure to use them in the next day or two. Keep them refrigerated, although they will not store for long even in the refrigerator. Use them also for cereal or ice cream toppings, bake them in muffins or cakes, make jam or jelly, eat a few fresh ones, or you can do like I did: make a delicious fruit smoothie.
To your good health,