The black mulberry, scientific name Morus nigra, is a species of deciduous tree in the mulberry family that bears an edible fruit, the black mulberry, that is considered by some to be the tastiest variety of mulberry fruit. Although the trees are originally natives of southwest Asia, they have been so widely cultivated for their fruit that they are now also found growing in the Middle Easy and Europe. The fruit of black mulberry trees is often used to make sweets and preserves, and is also sometimes in traditional herbal medicine. Leaves of the tree may also have a role in the production of silk, as mulberry leaves are the only food that silkworms will eat.
A black mulberry tree typically grows to a height of about 20 to 40 feet (6 to 12 meters) and has bright green, toothed leaves. The leaves are covered in small, rough hairs. Trees usually flower in the middle of spring, featuring small, yellow-green blooms.
When the flowers are pollinated, they begin to swell and develop into fruit. Ripe black mulberry fruits are a deep purple color, almost resembling small blackberries, but they are not actually berries at all. Each fruit is actually a cluster of miniature drupes, which are fruits with a fleshy exterior and a large seed, commonly called a stone, in the middle. The fruits are usually mature and ready for harvest by late summer.
Although the fruits are not berries, they are often used interchangeably with blackberries in cooking, and are frequently included in recipes for jams, muffins, and pies. In the Middle East and India, they are a popular ingredient for sherbet. The fruits also may be consumed fresh. In traditional herbal medicine, wine made from black mulberries is said to be an effective digestive aid. Due to their intense coloration, the fruits are also sometimes used to make food-safe dyes in a variety of shades.
Black mulberry trees may be grown from seed, although it usually takes about a decade for existing trees to begin bearing seed. The trees are therefore more commonly grown from stem or branch cuttings. They prefer to grow in sunny areas, in warm soil that has a good balance of silt, sand, and clay elements. The trees are usually fairly easy to care for, requiring no special watering and only moderate pruning to remove dead branches. They are also very resistant to most types of plant pests and diseases.