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What is a Mulberry?

Mulberry trees may grow up to 40 feet high.
Mulberry fruit may be used in jams.
Mulberry fruit may be used to make wine.
Silkworms feed on mulberry trees.
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2014
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A mulberry is a plant in the genus Morus, which includes a broad assortment of trees and shrubs which are cultivated all over the Northern Hemisphere. In addition to being ornamental, the mulberry has a number of valuable commercial uses which have made it a plant with enduring popularity. Many garden supply stores and nurseries carry mulberry plants, or are able to special order them for people who want to grow them.

Mulberries are quite diverse making it hard to provide a generic description, but as a general rule, they grow very quickly as young plants, with the rate of growth slowing as the trees age. The mulberry produces a distinctive milky sap, flowers in long, trailing catkins, and aggregate edible fruit which looks sort of like blackberries. The leaves of the mulberry are typically simple and often lobed, and the trees are deciduous, losing their leaves in the winter.

There are three main mulberry cultivars grown around the world, although it is possible to find numerous other species as well. Black mulberries produce berries which are a dark purple to black color, while red mulberries produce red berries, and white mulberries bear white fruit. In all cases, the fruit is intensely bitter before it is ripe.

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As ornamentals, mulberry trees can be quite lovely. They rarely top 40 feet (12 meters), and they can be pruned and trimmed to create a specific desired shape. Many people enjoy growing mulberries because they can use the edible fruit, and the foliage can be quite attractive. The only drawback to ornamental mulberries is the fruit, which can get messy if it is not used.

Commercially, the mulberry is extremely valuable as a source of food for the silk worm, a creature which famously produces very strong strands of protein which can be used to produce fibers. In paper production, especially in Asia, mulberry trees can also be quite useful. Mulberry fruit is also used commercially in jams, preserves, and fruit wines, among other things. Some cultivars have more interesting fruit that others; the best mulberry fruit is sweet and slightly tangy due to a mild acid content.

The hardiness of mulberries varies, depending on the variety. Some can endure extremely cold temperatures and hard winters, while others prefer not to be subjected to temperatures below freezing. If you want to cultivate mulberries, you should ask the staff at a local nursery about the varieties which will do best in your area, to ensure that you get a hardy, strong tree.

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anon349071
Post 12

If anyone is interested, rubbing green mulberries on clothing and skin helps to get rid of the staining.

orangey03
Post 11

@feasting – I'm like you. I have never actually seen or eaten a mulberry, but I am familiar with mulberry oil.

My cousin keeps some in her house to use as aromatherapy. She pours a few drops onto the glass plate of her diffuser and lights a tea candle beneath it.

Within minutes, the rich scent has permeated the house. It smells like a mixture between grapes and blackberries, so I would imagine the fruit would taste similar to this.

She gave me a mulberry candle for Christmas, since I loved the smell so much. It is incredibly powerful, and I don't have to burn it for very long to get a scent that lingers.

lighth0se33
Post 10

I am surprised to hear that this fruit tastes bitter before ripening. I always imagined it would be sour or tart.

I have blackberry bushes growing along the fence surrounding my yard, and they taste extremely sour before they get totally ripe. To some people, they taste too tart even after ripening. Many of my friends and family refuse to eat them unless they are baked into a cobbler with a cup or two of sugar.

However, there are some foods that bridge the gap between bitter and sour. Some have elements of both. Would you say that an unripe mulberry verges more on bitter or sour?

feasting
Post 9

My only experience with a mulberry is as a color. I picked out mulberry flooring for my kitchen and bathroom.

I've never seen an actual mulberry, but I do love the shade. It's a purplish red hue of medium darkness, and I find it both soothing and romantic.

I got mulberry tiles to replace the ugly, damaged linoleum in my house. They have totally changed the feel of the entire place. Mulberry goes so well with my deep brown cabinets and furniture that I am considering changing to this shade of drapes and wall trim as well.

bagley79
Post 8

Can you buy mulberry trees that don't produce any fruit? I love the look of the weeping mulberry trees I have seen in a lot of front yards, but don't think I want to mess with the fruit.

I know with some fruit trees you can find varieties that don't produce fruit and am wondering if you can do the same with a mulberry tree.

I am familiar with the big mulberry trees that grow very tall and produce a lot of berries every year. If you have trees like this, you can count on having a lot of birds. The birds love eating these berries, but even then, it doesn't look like they even put a dent in the number of berries on these trees.

You can easily tell they are mulberry trees without even seeing the berries on the branches because of all the mulberries on the ground. Sometimes the ground under the tree can almost be covered with mulberries that have dropped from the tree.

I am not so fond of the berries, but I do enjoy a mulberry tea that I have. This has a unique distinct flavor that is not too sweet.

bluedolphin
Post 7

@fBoyle-- You can dry the fruit in the sun or if you have a vegetable/fruit drier, you can use that. I know that dried white mulberries are an excellent fruit snack which you can enjoy throughout the year if you store it well. You can also use dry fruits to make mulberry tea which is delicious and full of vitamins.

It may be hard to pick mulberries as they are getting ripe if there is a lot of fruit. The best thing to do is to lay down several old sheets underneath the tree to catch the fruit as it falls. Make sure you use sheets you don't mind throwing away due to staining (or wash them and use them again next year).

julies
Post 6

I have a dwarf weeping mulberry tree that I love. This tree produces a black edible fruit but I have never used the fruit for anything. I like the ornamental look of this tree and keep it pruned so it doesn't get too tall.

I like to keep this tree under 10 feet tall and my cat loves to sleep under here on hot summer days. When I go outside to call her, many times I will see her coming from under the mulberry tree.

The only thing about this tree is the deer also love it. Even though it is close to the house, they like to nibble on the branches of this tree. Other than that, I have been very pleased with having this tree in my yard.

fBoyle
Post 5
@golf07-- Oh yeah, red mulberries stain clothes very bad! It stains skin too, but it comes up pretty easily after washing with soap and water. Clothes are more problematic because you need a stain-remover.

Do you know what else I can do with mulberry fruits aside from pie? We get a lot of fruit on our mulberry tree too and it is so messy. If we don't pick them when they're ripe, they fall down everywhere, staining the ground and making a mess. There are a few squirrels eating it but definitely not enough.

I want to prevent a mess this year by picking the mulberries regularly and using it. Except I'm not sure what all I can make. I can definitely make pie, but there is going to be a lot more mulberry left. Any ideas for what else I can make with them?

andee
Post 4

If I had my choice between raspberries or mulberries, I would go with raspberries. Yes, they can be harder to pick, but the fruit tastes so much better.

We lived at the edge of town and our land was surrounded by a corn field and timber. We had several mulberry trees and my mom also liked to make desserts with these berries.

One thing I didn't like with the mulberries was you had to remove each stem before you used the berry. This could take a lot of time and patience. The fruit is also not as sweet as it looks.

When you see these plump purple berries, you are envisioning a very sweet taste. The first time you put one of these in your mouth, you will probably be disappointed. They have a slightly bitter taste and I don't find them to be very sweet at all.

They are OK once you add a lot of sugar to them, but I would never eat a handful of mulberries like I would raspberries.

burcidi
Post 3
Mulberries are also widely found in the Mediterranean region, which is where I'm originally from. We have both black mulberry trees and white mulberry trees around my family's house there. The fruit is the best part about these trees which generally become ripe around spring or early summer depending on the climate that year.

Black mulberry is my favorite. It's first red when it forms. But you can't eat mulberries before they are ripe like the article said. It's way too hard and sour. As the black mulberry ripens, it turns from red to a dark red and finally to a blackish color. It is very sweet and a tad sour. The white mulberry is way sweeter than the black. I prefer black mulberry because I like the taste better and dark red fruits have more antioxidants.

Birds and animals love mulberries too. The fruit on the top branches of the trees are usually eaten by birds and we eat the ones on the lower branches.

golf07
Post 2

My aunt always made mulberry pie and jam from mulberry trees that were on her property. I remember these trees always being loaded with fruit. I didn't mind picking the mulberries because they were easy to pick off the tree and didn't have thorns like raspberries do.

The only disadvantage was how they would stain your fingers, clothes and shoes. Sometimes it would take several days before the dark purple stain would wear off my fingers.

You never wanted to wear good clothes while you were around mulberry trees because those stains are hard to get out of your clothes.

As long as I can remember my aunt had these big mulberry trees on her ground. I don't know if she planted them herself or if they were there when she bought the place. I just know we could count on these trees producing a lot of fruit every year.

obsessedwithloopy
Post 1

Silkworms love the mulberry tree.

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