Upham's Corner Online

Mulberry Tree - Wild Berries in Upham's Corner

Posted: July 4, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

The early seasonal stages of the mulberry tree rarely attract attention - just another green tree.  The fruit is small and greenish white, and blends easily into the mass of leaves.  As small as they are, though, the berries attract our attention when they begin to ripen and drop to the ground.  You can hardly pass by without looking up.  Popular with the birds, the mulberry tree brings music to the urban environment as the birds stop by regularly to eat tiny morsels from the ripe fruits.

North American mulberry trees in North America tend to be of the red mulberry variety though for the layperson, the clues available online differentiating the  varieties don't seem to be sufficient to determine conclusively:  Red mulberry tree or black mulberry  tree?

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Mulberry Tree Monadnock St Mulberry Tree Monadnock St

The Red Mulberry is a realtively small tree, growing to a height not much over 30-45 feet.  It is a deciduous tree with heart-shaped leaves (cordate) in mature trees.  Younger trees may have a more interesting variety of different leaves all at the same time including lobed leaves with 2-3 lobes and a finely serrated margin. 

According to Wikipedia, the Red Mulberry (morus rubra) "is a species of mulberry native to eastern North America, from northernmost Ontario and Vermont south to southern Florida and west to southeast South Dakota and central Texas. Although common in the United States, it is listed as an endangered species in Canada."

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Leaves on the Virginia Monadnock Garden Mulberry Tree

A (red) mulberry tree is growing at the front edge of the Virginia-Monadnock garden on Monadnock Street in Upham's Corner and extends its branches well over the public sidewalk.  Even if you do not have a key to enter the garden, you can still pick berries.

Reach up and grab what you can but in no time, the "low-hanging fruit" will disappear and give way to a yearning for stilts.  Bring your 6 ft aluminum ladder and a gathering bowl and make your way up into the upper branches.

Be aware that mulberries stain - your hands, the bottom of your shoes, the steps of the ladder and you will track the dye into your home unless you are very careful.

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A word about ladder safety:  Ground surfaces, especially sidewalks, can be uneven, causing the ladder to rock.  In other words, one of the four feet is not touching the ground.  Use the "walking technique" to stabilize the ladder.  Wherever you place it fully open with the support arms secured, if the ladder rocks, then "walk" it forward until it finds its own stable location (if you can).  Climb the ladder slowly, making sure at each step it feels secure.  Remember you are going to be balancing on the ladder reaching up to branches that move easily, so slow movements are best.

Hard white berries represent under-ripened fruit and should not be eaten.  Fully ripened fruit is dark purple and falls from the branches easily at the slightest touch.  It is best to reach under the berries, touching them gently.  If they do not fall immediately, twist slightly and they should release easily.  Berries with a red tinge are not as ripe, will cling more strongly to the branch but are worth picking for their flavor.

Picking mulberries is like meditating. You can't hurry the process - or the berries will fall.  You have to be consistent, persistent, patient and repetitive.  The act of picking berries soon moves into the background and your thoughts return but the pace of the picking slows you down and calms your thoughts - kinda' like deep breathing. Good for the soul.

Forty-five minutes later, almost two pounds of berries and a new outlook on life.

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Dump the berries into a bowel of water and remove the quality berries into a separate bowl.  Discard the rest.  You will notice that each berry has a tiny green stem.  You can take the time to remove that (all afternoon) or you can eat the berry as is.  A mouthful of berries, chewed might generate a residue of stems (like seeds)  which you can swallow or discard.

The ripest berries have a less interesting flavor than the firmer berries with the reddish hue.  These berries are slightly acidic and taste like someone has sprinkled lemon juice - incredibly good.  Mix the two and the flavor is heavenly.

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We highly recommend a video by "Eat the Weeds."  His 117th video is devoted to the mulberry tree.  He is a delightful narrator and the video is worth watching all the way through.


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