Wild Edibles: mulberries for iron, antioxidants, A,C, and E. And pie.

mulberry anthocyanins stain the sidewalk with antioxidantsThe mulberries are in!  I am very excited.  While many landscape designers shun these “messy” berries for their self-determination and sidewalk staining juicy-ness, I revel in it.

Mulberry sidewalks

The stains of ripe mulberries leave on the sidewalk are nothing short of red flags, warning signs that you are by-passing an excellent source antioxidants (which fight inflammation, cancer, and a host of other diseases).  Science is beginning to understand that the very same things that cause foods to have colors are the things that cause food to have nutrients.  The red in tomatoes doesn’t coincide with the lycopene, it IS the lycopene, or rather, the lycopene is red.

In mulberries, it’s the purple: anthocyanins, an antioxidant known for anti-aging and anti-cancer qualities.  Anthocyanins have been linked to improved neurological health, resistance to diabetes, and combating bacterial infections.

Mulberries are also unusually high in iron for a berry, and an amazing source of vitamin C (that’s probably the source of its anti-inflammatory qualities).  Vitamins A and E are in good supply here too, as are several of the B vitamins.

Rather than eradicate these messy trees with their shrouds of sidewalk staining berries, we should just get smart about where we plant them: near the picnic benches rather than near the parked cars.

Mulberries trees are weeds?

If weeds are things that grow without human intervention (or benediction), then yes, mulberries are weeds.

ripe wild edible berries mulberry tree morasThere are several mulberry species out there; the white mulberries (Morus alba) were brought to the US from China when there was a notion to get a silk industry started here (these are the leaves preferred by the silk worms).

White mulberries (named for flower color, not berry color) don’t, in my opinion, taste as good as the other varieties, and for this reason, yes, there are mulberry trees I would in fact cut down if they were mine to cut.  I would, however, replace them with other mulberries.

Favorites of birds, mulberries have a tendency to show up along fence lines, remnant evidence of some bird that pooped out some mulberry seeds while perched on the fence rail.  I think this is actually what irks people more than anything.  The saplings get woven into the fence and then somebody tries to cut them out but of course can’t get the whole tree, so it grows back.  It’s not long before there’s a wacky, misshapen shrub trying to live by sending out long quick growing branches that shade the border garden and generally muck up the intended aesthetics.  Argh.  Cruel world.

If you really have to get rid of some poor tree who only wants to cure your future cancer and slow your crow’s feet, drill a hole into the tree and spray a woody plant killer in there.  The Maryland Highway Department uses this trick to combat the Ailanthus thickets and I like how it is both effective and exceedingly targeted- no broad brush chemical buckshot sprayed willy-nilly across the landscape.

Or you could eat the mulberries.

Really, I think the better bet is generally going to be befriending this fruit.  Mulberries easily slip into any recipe that calls for blueberries.  Mulberry pancakes, mulberry muffins, mulberry empanadas (okay, not many blueberry empanada recipes out there, but this just sounds like a good idea to me.)

Mulberry jam and mulberry pie should both be quite easy, and I know freezing mulberries to eat in the winter to be exceedingly delightful.  I freeze the berries on  a cookie tray and then, after about an hour in the freezer, I load them into a plastic tub or bag, label them, and make vain promises that I’ll wait for Thanksgiving (end of November) to break into the stash.  It’s hard to wait that long, but worth it.

Ooo- maybe I’ll try mulberry “ice cream”!

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2 Responses to Wild Edibles: mulberries for iron, antioxidants, A,C, and E. And pie.

  1. I just noticed today that our mulberry has some ripe fruits. I ate one. I was happy.

    • My mom called to tell me she’d hauled a step ladder to church and then picked a little tub full after the service from the trees that border the parking lot. And folks say life in your 70s won’t be adventurous!

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