Mulberries are a sweet and nutritious berry that don’t ship well, so are often not found in grocery stores. They usually need to be eaten or used within a day of picking. Mulberry trees are very prolific produces of fruit, so to help you here is some information on how to grow, harvest and use mulberries, during harvest time.
What are Mulberries?
Mulberries are a small fruit that can come in black, red or white berries. Mulberry trees are fast growing trees that are easy to grow. All parts of the tree are edible, being used for food and herbal remedies. The mulberry season does last for quite a few weeks, and with a bountiful supply, you will have plenty of time to try a few different recipes, such as mulberry pancakes, smoothies or even top your yoghurt and ice cream with them. By dehydrating mulberries, you can continue to enjoy them, even when the harvest season is over. Just a note first though. If you are looking to grow your own mulberry tree, if you don’t harvest all the mulberries, they will fall off the tree and can make a mess underneath which make attract some unwanted guests. Many people prefer to plant their mulberry trees near a chicken yard as chickens love to hang out and scratch around these large, shady trees.
There are many varieties of mulberries you can grow including:
- Morus macroura ‘Shatoot’
- Morus alba ‘Pendula’
- Morus nigra ‘Hicks Fancy’
- Morus nigra ‘Black English’
- Morus rubra ‘Everbearing Downings’
- Native Mulberry – Pipturus argenteus
How to Grow Mulberries
Mulberries can be hard to find, but easy to grow. They like a sunny spot with well-drained soil. If planting bare-rooted plants in cooler weather, soak in a bucket of water for around 30 minutes before planting. Mulch around the base of the plant with sugarcane or pea straw, leaving an area untouched around the trunk of the plant. Water in well to help settle the soil around the roots, then continue to water deeply every couple of days until once established – around 2 -3 weeks. Fertilise every 6 – 8 weeks and increase to fortnightly when flowering and fruiting.
Smaller varieties, such as the Dwarf Mulberry, can be grown in pots. They will need a pot that is at leat 600 mm wide and good quality potting mix. Place the pot in a sunny position, place the plant in the pot and backfill with potting mix. Mulchwith sugarcane or pea straw, though keep it away from the trunk. Water in well to help settle the soil around the roots, then continue to water deeply every couple of days until once established – around 2 -3 weeks. Fertilise every 6 – 8 weeks and increase to fortnightly when flowering and fruiting.
The fruit of the Native Mulberry tree are small and white to almost translucent. They bear their seeds on the outside, just like strawberries. This fruit is soft and juicy with a lovely sweet flavour. The roots, leaves and sap of these trees have been used in traditional medicine while the bark has been used for textiles and cordage. These trees tend to flower from January to June with the fruit ripening from May through July.
If you can’t find a mulberry tree at a nursery, and you know someone that has one, you can always grow one from a cutting. Take the cutting when the tree has finished fruiting. The cutting should be new growth but not so new that it is green, it should be a soft wood cutting. Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone (many use honey) and then plant in a pot. When it has taken and roots have appeared, plant it in the ground. Once the trees are in the ground, there is not much they need, just some water, especially during a drought. If you want to prune them, the best time is when they are dormant.
The easiest way to harvest the fruit is to cover the ground under the tree with a tarp, then gently shake the branches of the tree to make the berries fall off and onto the tarp. During harvest season, this should be done every alternate day. Carefully retrieve the berries off the tarp and place them in small baskets. Don’t overload each basket as the fruit at the bottom will get crushed. Wash and dry the berries before storing them in the fridge. They should last up to 2-3 days in the fridge when placed in airtight containers. You can freeze the berries are washing and drying them by storing in a sealed bag. This way they should last up to about 3 months.
Mulberries are known to stain everything, including your fingers. The best way to get the stain off your fingers is to wash with vinegar or lemon juice or even rub an unripe mulberry over the stain and it should wash off.
Do I need to destem mulberries?
No, you don’t need to destem mulberries, as the stems are edible. If you want to, you can either pinch or cut off the stem with your fingernails, a pair of scissors or even a clean pair of nail clippers. When making jam, I tend to cut of the stem, when dehydrating, I leave the stem on as cutting of the stem does add extra work.
Eating mulberry leaves
The leaves are edible, though it is recommended that they are cooked or dried first as the stems do have a small amount of white sap in them that is mildly toxic, though you would need to eat a lot of them to get an upset stomach. We don’t eat the leaves raw, only dried and used in tea.
Mulberries do not keep for a long period of time. They deteriorate quickly once they have been harvested, which is why you can’t find them in the grocery store. You can keep unwashed mulberries in the fridge for around 3 – 4 days. If you want to make something with mulberries but don’t have enough, you can save them up by placing them in a ziplock bag and freeze until you have enough.
When making a cake or cupcakes, you can add some mulberries to you cake mixture or place a layer of mulberries on the bottom of your lined cake pan before pouring the cake batter into the pan. Due to the moisture in the mulberries, you make need to bake a little longer.
- Add mulberries to fruit salad or even placed on top of ice cream for a delicious dessert. If you make your own ice cream, swirl through some mulberry syrup or mashed fresh mulberries before placing the ice cream into the freezer to freeze.
- Add some to your pancake batter.
- Add some to your favourite smoothie.
- Sprinkle a few fresh mulberries on top of your oatmeal, granola or yoghurt for a yummy breakfast.
- Make a mulberry pie. This is made the same way as a blackberry pie, just substituting mulberries for the blackberries.
- Substitute mulberries in your favourite fruit sorbet recipe.