Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden
To be planted more for wildlife than the kitchen. This is a rangy, fast-growing deciduous tree, usually multi-trunked and spreading, with low branches. The leaves are highly variable in shape on any tree--some with no lobes, some with two, some with three and even five. The fruits are drupes (like raspberries), with very small round berries, each with one seed, packed together around a stem. Male and female flowers grow on the tree, and crops are usually large, to the point of making a mess when the fruits fall. This is not a patio tree.
The fruits are only slightly sweet and their flavor is bland. They’re usually eaten fresh, but the stem that holds the berries is too long to swallow whole and resists chewing somewhat, lingering in the mouth after the berries and crunchy seeds.
I once shook several gallons out of a wild tree into the bed of a pickup truck and found an abundance of small insects and caterpillars among the fruits. After lots of washing, the berries looked edible and I baked them in a pie, which was bland, a little soupy, and thick with the stems. You mulberry lovers who know how to enjoy them, please share your secrets.
The red mulberry is native to a wide swath of the U.S. from Kansas to the East Coast. Its counterpart in China is the white mulberry, cultivated for its leaves, which are the food of silkworms. It was brought to the U.S. long ago to start a silk industry. The trees thrived but not the industry. The white mulberry has migrated far and wide in the U.S. and is much more common than the native red mulberry.
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