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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

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Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) illustration. (By: Duhamel du Monceau, H.L., Traité des arbres et arbustes, Nouvelle édition [Nouveau Duhamel], vol. 4: t. 23 (1809) [P.J. Redouté] drawing: P.J. Redouté)


Season: Summer


Urban, Rural or Both: Both


Mulberries: Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) (native to North America), the White Mulberry (Morus alba) (native to Asia, but now naturalized in North America) and the Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) - also not native to North America - which is occasionally found as a tree planted for its fruit, although not known to have naturalized in North America like it has in Europe. The Mulberry is a great wild, and often city found berry. Along fence lines, in parks, backyards, fields let go wild, roadsides, well, almost everywhere in the Carolinian zone. They look a lot like a Raspberry or Blackberry, but the taste is unique. They tend to become ripe in July, and they let you know when they are ripe by turning a dark red/purple color. When not ready, they are first greenish or whitish, then pinkish.

They make great fresh eating right off the tree, pick them and keep in the fridge, or cooked into baked goods - a really good all around berry. If they are frozen, when thawed they are quite mushy, but still good for baked items. The Red and Black Mulberry fruit is very tasty, while the White Mulberry is similar, but not as good - the flavor is duller. It is hard to tell if you have a Black or Red Mulberry unless you are looking for the differences, but they taste more or less the same, so really it doesn't matter. It is getting very hard to tell if you have a Red or White Mulberry now, as the trees are interbreeding, and blending into each other. Bottom line, taste the berry and see what you think. The good news is, all are edible, and even the worst tasting of the White Mulberries is just dull and sweet.

Mulberries contain relatively high amounts of the nutrient resveratrol.


Mulberry recipe search on the web for Mulberries from any of the three types of Mulberry tree here (Google search) and here (Bing search).


Growing Mulberry trees in your home garden:

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Mulberry page.



Red Mulberry (Morus rubra):

This tree is fairly common in the USA, but is only in a couple of areas that I'm aware of in Canada. In west London, Ontario (Byron area), along the Thames river valley - however development in that area has cut down most of the ones I knew of. Also, along the shores of Lake Erie on the Canadian side from Port Stanley south - but be careful - that is the same area that is renowned as the richest Poison Ivy, Western Poison Ivy growing area in North America. I have seen woods along there that I would guess have half of their biomass in the form of very healthy Poison Ivy.


Description:


Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) range. Distribution map courtesy of the USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, originally from "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr..


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Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) illustration. (By: François André Michaux)


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Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) (By: LeonAdler CC BY-SA 3.0)


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Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) male tree twig, leaves and flowers. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)


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Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) female tree twig, leaves and flowers/immature fruit. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)


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Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) twig and buds. (W.D. Brush, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)



White Mulberry (Morus alba). Not native to North America (originally from China) but now a very common naturalized tree in Eastern North America to the point it is being labelled an invasive species in many areas. Hybridizes with the Red Mulberry, so sometimes it is very hard to tell what tree you have.

Though a perfectly safe berry to eat, it is least tasty of the three. It is sweet, but there is a dull lack of balancing tartness and less flavor. Hybrids with the Red Mulberry can be anywhere in between in taste. Although most have berries that are red, there are cultivars that have off-white and pink ripe fruit. The easiest way to tell if you have one of these is by the shiny, smooth upper leaf surface (dull and scratchy on the other two) and the taste of the fruit. Really though, if you like the taste of the fruit from a tree, it doesn't matter which one you have. Where I live in Southwestern Ontario, there are more hybrids now than either the Red or White Mulberry, and you just have to taste the berry before deciding whether to harvest more.

Though this is not an herbal book, I have to say there are a lot of positive claims for the young leaves when made into tea. It is claimed they help regulate blood sugar (regardless of cause), block absorption of carbohydrates thus helping with weight control, plus it is claimed the tea helps with cognition, memory formation and reduces plaque in the arteries. So what the berries lack in flavor, the leaves apparently make up for.


Description:


White Mulberry (Morus alba) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


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White Mulberry (Morus alba) illustration. (By: Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A.) Flora de Filipinas)


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White Mulberry (Morus alba) leaves and fruit in stages from unripe to ripe. (By: Vladimer Shioshvili Attribution 2.0 Generic)


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White Mulberry (Morus alba). The leaf can have widely varrying lobes. (By: Jaknouse CC BY-SA 3.0)


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White Mulberry (Morus alba) seeds. (By: Steve Hurst, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)


Black Mulberry (Morus nigra). I don't think I've ever had the fruit from this particular Mulberry, but from what I gather, the fruit tastes basically the same as the Red Mulberry. There are cultivars that have been bred to produce particular characteristics with the fruit, such as very long berries.


Description:

Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies


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Black Mulberry (Morus nigra). (By: Yuriy75 CC BY-SA 3.0)


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Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) (By: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany)


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Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) female tree in flower. (By: Wouter Hagens)


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Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) male tree with flowers just starting to come out of bud. (By: Meneerke bloem GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)


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Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) in fruit. Fruit in various stages. Only the black fruit is ripe. (By: Haplochromis GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)


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Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) illustration. (By: Amédée Masclef)




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Rules & Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching
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