Foraging Mulberries, and a Recipe for Mulberry Chutney

| 5/26/2016 10:33:00 AM

Tags: food foraging, edible wild plants, mulberries, berries, chutney, condiments, recipes, fruit trees, Leda Meredith, New York,

 mulberries on the tree

Mulberries are one of the first wild fruits to ripen in late spring and early summer. Frequently cursed by property owners who detest how these fruits of the Morus genus stain their pavement, mulberries are a delicious fruit that grows on several continents.

How to Identify a Mulberry Tree

In the wild, look for mulberries in floodplain woodlands. They are also a common urban and suburban tree. Mulberry trees can get up to 60 feet tall, but they are most often much shorter than that. The trees have a scruffy appearance, with the branches sticking out at odd angles.

You’ll frequently find three leaf shapes growing on the same mulberry tree: a 2-lobed mitten shape, a 3-lobed leaf, and a roughly heart-shaped leaf. Note that there is another tree out there with those three leaf shapes: sassafras. But the leaf margins of sassafras are smooth whereas those of mulberry are toothed. When there is only one leaf shape on a mulberry, it will be the simple heart shape. Whichever shape, mulberry leaves grow in an alternate arrangement.

The bark of mulberry trees develops craggy vertical furrows as the trees age. The branches emerge from the short trunks just a few feet above the ground.  

The fruits look very much like blackberries, although depending on the species the fruit may be ripe when it is dark purple or when it is pale pink. (FYI, blackberries do not grow on trees. Whenever someone tells me they found a “blackberry tree,” I know that what they really found was mulberry.)

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