Mulberry season has passed and left Jake and I with some tasty foraged treats! I absolutely love going out to find mulberries and gather some up. They are a sweet, subtle berry that is great for jam or jelly, and I also find it very rewarding to get a special fruit for the hard work of harvesting.
Mulberries typically ripen between late May and mid-June here in Maryland – this year we harvested on June 18th, which was about the end of the mulberry season. Mulberries are fairly common in parks and less cultivated land areas, and I’ve located many mulberry trees in early May, looking for fruiting trees as well as premature fruit that’s dropped to the ground. The Baltimore Orchard Project also hosts a fruit finder with the location of many fruit trees around the city! There are several different mulberry species: Mid-Atlantic native red mulberry, nonnative black mulberry, and the delicate white mulberry – all are delicious, and have many purported herbal uses to boot!
This season I was happy to taste all three – red mulberries in the garden at my workplace and black and white mulberries along the Middle Branch Trail in Baltimore. Jake and I harvested 3 pounds of black mulberries and 2 pounds of white mulberries!
To harvest, bring a rope and large tarp to the tree. Throw the rope over high branches and grasp both ends of the rope. Spread the tarp underneath the branch you’ve roped, then gently shake the branch so that ripe fruit will fall onto your tarp. Pick low fruit by hand, but know that mulberries can stain your fingers, clothes, and shoes easily. Prepare to be purple! Most mulberries are ripe when they turn deep red to dark purple/black, but white mulberries may be white to a shade of light purple. These berries will appear soft and succulent when ripe even though they may not change color. Make sure to also bring along containers or bags to carry your harvest!
At home, pick through the mulberries, discarding any that have started to dry or are over ripe. Gently rinse the berries in a colander or large strainer, and let drain and dry for a few minutes. The berries can be kept in the refrigerator for several days and make great eating by themselves, in smoothies, or on oatmeal, pancakes, and ice cream.
Mulberries can also be prepared as any other berry jam, crushed and strained into juice for jelly or syrup, frozen in single layers, or prepared as a tincture. Keep in mind that while stems become soft during boiling, you may wish to trim or pinch off the stems to avoid their texture. This takes some time, and it’s really up to your personal preference. I made several jars of jam without removing the stems and haven’t noticed them at all.