Berry

Mulberries: The Fruit That's Probably Growing in Your Yard Right Now

July 11, 2015

Every other week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today: The free fruit that might be right in your backyard.

Mulberries

If you’ve never picked mulberries before, they very well might be in your own backyard (they’re in mine), or your neighbor’s yard, or your local park. You’re looking for a tree that looks like it's growing elongated blackberries. It’s the tree that leaves angry purple splotches on the ground (and the bottoms of your shoes) and the one that you think is a nuisance—right up until you realize that it’s giving you free fruit.

Mulberries, like blackberries (their doppelgängers) aren’t true berries. But even though mulberries and blackberries look similar, they have quite a few differences: Blackberries (and raspberries) are aggregate fruits, while mulberries are multiple fruits. Mulberries grow on trees, not thorny canes. In fact, mulberries and blackberries aren’t even in the same plant family: Mulberries belong to the Moraceae family and are more closely related to figs.

Ripe mulberries can be white (3, below), light purple (2, below), reddish, or a deep purplish-black. (Keep in mind this means that unripe mulberries come in those lighter shades, too.) And while there are white, red, and black mulberry trees, those names don’t have anything to do with the color of the ripe fruit, as is commonly assumed. As The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink explains, these names refer instead to the tree’s bud scale color in winter.

Mulberries

Mulberries taste most similar to blackberries, but at the same time, they have a flavor all their own. As Hank Shaw, of the James Beard award-winning blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook describes it: “They are not as tart as blackberries, and my main flavor impression is a kind of high sweetness, like an alto to blackberry’s baritone. If blackberries are a Cabernet Sauvignon, mulberries are a Pinot Noir.” Also, note that white mulberry fruits tend to be sweeter, without the same balance of tartness that the black ones possess.

Mulberries are easy enough to pick by hand—though their thin skin means you might end up with stained fingers. If the tree branches are low enough, you have another option: Spread out a tarp below the tree and shake the branches. The ripe berries will fall right off and you can collect your harvest. You have to give the berries a few baths in bowls of clean water to get rid of leaves and bugs and things, but you’ll still be saving time in the end.

Their thin skin also means that mulberries have a pretty short shelf life once picked, so once they’re in your possession, eat them! But on the plus side, mulberries don’t ripen all at once, so once you find your spot, you can keep returning again and again for multiple hauls. If you can’t find a tree in your neighborhood, try scoring a punnet at your farmers market. This is one type of fruit you won’t find in a grocery store; mulberries are too fragile to travel.

More: Garlic bulblets are another wild plant to be foraging for right now.

mulberries

You’ll notice that mulberries have little green stems (1, far above) attached to them. If you'll be mashing up the berries and straining out the seeds, there's no need to bother with de-stemming them. If you're leaving the berries whole, however, you'll need to remove the stems.

You can use mulberries as you would any other berries, but here are 9 ideas to get you started

1) Sprinkle them on a bowl of cereal or yogurt.
2) Bake mulberries into a pie.
3) Serve them with biscuits and whipped cream.
4) Make mulberry jam.
5) Freeze up some mulberry ice pops.
6) Use mulberries in Summer Pudding.
7) Muddle them up in a cocktail.
8) Stuff mulberries into scones.
9) Churn up a batch of mulberry ice cream.

Tell us: What are your favorite ways to use mulberries?

First two photos by James Ransom, final photo by Tama Matsuoka Wong

15 Comments

Thomas W. June 30, 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s5I5SfqH5U ( My 2nd video of foraging for Mulberries ) - Thank you for the photos. It is good to know that there are others that appreciate this great little fruit!
 
Mikel O. June 2, 2016
Oh the joys of mulberry pie!<br />
 
connie M. August 31, 2015
Ahhhh, just the thought of mulberries. My thoughts of childhood were the summer train trip from Minnesota to my grandmother's farm in Nebraska. There were rows of all types, white, red, purple, where I ate my weight. Never had any since. Not a big item in Florida. Wish it was!
 
witloof July 25, 2015
I was in Illinois a few weeks ago and spent the afternoon foraging mulberries in a forest preserve. They were delicious!
 
Charlotte R. July 13, 2015
I have a recipe for a mulberry galette! I forgaed the berries in Knoxville, Tennessee. It's on my blog here: http://www.therumblecure.com/wild-urban-foraged-mini-mulberry-galettes-gluten-free/
 
Rose T. July 13, 2015
Had one of these trees at the corner of a property I was renting... and went out every evening and ate berries straight off the tree like a foraging bear... looking forward to my new tree putting out fruit this upcoming year! <br />
 
John P. July 13, 2015
I can't imagine de-stemming the berries to make jam. I simply make jelly instead.
 
Christine M. July 12, 2015
I found a mulberry tree at the back of our ( large ) property last year.... Didn't know what it was at first. After figuring it out: made a large batch of jam!
 
Donna J. July 12, 2015
When my neighbors generously share mulberries from their tree, I freeze them and blend them into smoothies when I'm ready to enjoy. Yum!
 
Chris K. July 12, 2015
I grew up with a huge Mulberry in my backyard in California. We ate Mulberries all summer and into the fall and it's one of the things I miss about my childhood.
 
aargersi July 11, 2015
My neighbors use theirs as bird and squirrel food. Not on purpose.
 
Chef L. July 11, 2015
I attended a chef's dinner of locally grown foods t benefit local farmers. It began with a Mulberry cocktail that I have never been able to reproduce. Slightly sweet, but very refreshing during the heat of Dallas summer. And suggestions?
 
secretarydeluxe July 11, 2015
I've got two mullberry trees and a smattering of shoots. We've been juicing them into a concentrate to mix with lemonade etc... Everyone's already feeling the benefits!
 
Shelley M. July 11, 2015
mulberries can vary wildly. Ihad a tree in my backyard and the fruit was absolutely tasteless.
 
BriarPatch F. June 17, 2018
The taste varies from season to season. Also don't harvest after a rain because they lose flavor for a day or two.