Saturday, June 12, 2010

THE UNDERAPPRECIATED MULBERRY


I have several large mulberry trees in my backyard, which the birds are gracious enough to share with me...but only if I stick to the lower branches. And because the birds love them so much...I find little mulberry saplings just about everywhere. Maybe that is why whenever I try to give one away to friends, NO one ever wants one... Or maybe it is the lovely purple stains they can leave on your hands, feet and lawnmower.


But this seems like a small price to pay for all the benefits the native white mulberry (morus alba) gives back. The fruit tree is an Ohio native, so it is well adapted to our soil, light and moisture levels, which translated means, you don't have to fuss with it! It produces a huge amount of berries for eating or baking and which are quite good for you. Plus, the trees grow very quickly, so once you transplant it...it is not long before you will enjoy the "fruit" of your labor.

Mulberries are an excellent source of vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin K and iron. They are also a good source of dietary fiber, riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grapes and red wine, is abundant in mulberries and has been heavily publicized for its positive health benefits. These benefits include lowering cholesterol, preventing cancer, blood clots, diabetes and aiding in weight loss. Who knew something that healthy could be so easily and readily available in our own backyards?

When the berries are ripe I pick them, wash them and lay them on a cookie sheet to freeze. Then I transfer them to a container for freezing and eat them all year. The berries make a good mulberry crisp or cobbler. You can add them to smoothies. Or you can just pop them in your mouth...and yes you might have to tolerate some tasteless, harmless stem pieces. Don't be so finicky...:)

Then there is the benefit to wildlife. I usually get a flock of cedar waxwings each year enjoying the sweet resource. And just the other day, as I was standing underneath some lower branches, a female Baltimore Oriole landed about 4 feet away from me and had herself an energy snack, which she needs while raising her young somewhere nearby.

I'm befuddled that this wonderful fruit tree is not more ubiquitous and highly esteemed for cultivation. But like many other native plants, it has gotten overshadowed by exotic ones and virtually lost in the landscaping and plant industry. It needs no pesticides or fungicides unlike many other fruit trees people try to grow. It just stands in the sun and gives up its ripe, juicy, sweet berries to anyone or any thing that wants them...for free.

Let me know if you are interested. Next time I run across a little sapling, I'll give you a call!