Mulberry Heaven

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Near my home there is a mulberry tree that has delicious black fruit and low-hanging branches. When the fruit ripens, I throw my ketogenic diet temporarily out the window and go every evening to stand under it, gorging myself, while my dogs eat dropped fruit off the path. This is one of the greatest joys of the summer season. But it isn’t by any means the only use for mulberry trees.
On my own property I don’t have any mulberries big enough to fruit, but I do have two mulberries that I harvest greens from. The leaves of all mulberries are edible when young and tender, but flavor ranges from tasty to nasty. By hanging around a local organic nursery and surreptitiously tasting leaves, I got a couple that had fairly good-tasting leaves. At my last home I had a mulberry with delicious and large leaves, but alas, that tree is no longer mine, and I didn’t try rooting cuttings because I had no clue how hard it would be to replace. But the ones I now have are passable. The trees will rapidly grow tall if you let them, which I don’t. From the time they are 4 feet high I start managing them for leaf harvest by keeping them small. At first this is a matter of a little delicate trimming and weighting some branches so that they grow out nearly parallel to the ground. Later on in their lives, much harder cutting is needed, and by the time that they are 5-7 years old, they need coppicing (cutting off a few feet above the ground) to keep them in check. Coppicing keeps them from producing fruit, and incidentally they also don’t bloom and produce their incredibly allergenic pollen when managed this way. They do produce masses of young tender tips that can be pinched off at the point where they are nonwoody and break easily and cooked as a green, a good green that fills in gaps between cold-weather and hot-weather greens and contains resveratrol as a bonus.
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At the point when my coppiced trees start producing more greens than I can use (which is a few years down the road,) I will start harvesting bigger branches for my goat, who thinks that mulberry branches are the food of queens. Mulberry leaves can also be dried to make tea, although I think the resulting tea is pretty insipid stuff and needs other herbs for interest. I would also use “extra” cuttings for mulch and spare biomass.
For more about mulberry trees, see the link below for a terrific and very comprehensive post about mulberries in permaculture. Don’t miss the wonderful pictures of stuffed mulberry leaves! The recipes are available too, and I plan to try this soon.
Temperate Zone Permaculture mulberry post
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This image of stuffed mulberry leaves, poached from the Temperate Zone Permaculture post linked in above, looks especially interesting to me. Check out the recipes in that post.
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The stigmata of the mulberry fancier. Consider yourself warned.

 

9 responses to this post.

  1. I notice there is some disagreement around the Web as to whether mulberries can be coppiced and have fruit on first, or second year growth or older. I’d be interested in finding when yours start producing fruit again.
    I know my very young mulberry is making fruit on this year’s growth so I assume it would do the same if coppiced. Perhaps it varies between species?

    Reply

  2. Posted by wooddogs3 on June 5, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    The mulberry that I had at my last property, coppiced heavily every year, never bloomed or bore fruit. One of my new little trees at my current place is bearing a few berries, but it has never been coppiced. I consulted my copy of the Royal Horticultural Society book on pruning, and they say that mulberries bear only on old wood and can be espaliered for that reason, which would seem to imply that they won’t fruit if coppiced. But as you have noted, plants don’t always read the books. Hmmm….an espalier of mulberries….something I haven’t tried yet…

    Reply

    • Yes, an espalier sounds very nice. I’ve seen some wild trees with branches that have cracked and are naturally growing horizontal, or have bent and aren’t far from it. There might be two of us trying that out.
      Thanks for the info!

      Reply

      • Posted by wooddogs3 on June 6, 2015 at 1:20 pm

        I’m always impressed by your depth of knowledge about permaculture and the questions that you investigate. What sort of place do you have, and what’s your favorite project currently?

      • I live on a fairly diverse, large scale certified organic farm –scale of course being relative. But the total acreage my Parents own and rent is over 200 acres and is made up of multiple farms. Besides having full reign of this, I also wander far off the borders of these, since they’re surrounded by woods, and abandoned farms and orchards. So I see a lot of scenarios where nature is ordering things as it wishes.
        I do have a much larger project than Mortal Tree on our farm. It’s a complete, self sustaining system including a house along with its supporting system for power and food production. I may post the designs sometime, as they’ve been 4 years in the making, and I’ve put everything I know into them.

        Perhaps you might like to look at the farms newsroom: http://www.simonorganics.com/news.php Most of what’s on there is pretty old because my parents sort of lost the knack of keeping newsletters going out. I think you might find what’s there of interest though. I’m flattered you’d ask.

  3. Posted by wooddogs3 on June 7, 2015 at 7:35 am

    I’ve looked through the Simon Farm news quite a bit and couldn’t be more impressed. You folks do everything! I am very eager to hear more about the house/property plans. Please do consider posting them, or at least some notes about them.

    Reply

  4. In my parents neighborhood, in Northern Virginia, there are at least two different kinds of mulberry trees, ones with small, sweet berries and tender leaves, and ones with larger, more tart berries and more “mature” tasting leaves. I hope we find some of the former when we move to ABQ later this summer!

    Reply

  5. There’s certainly a great deal to learn about this issue.

    I really like all the points you made.

    Reply

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