White mulberries are a seasonal summer fruit and a food with therapeutic effects. They are both eaten as food and taken as a dietary supplement for their benefits for health. But how safe are white mulberries for humans? Can you eat white mulberries raw or do they require some form of processing to render them both edible and safe to eat? What happens if you eat unripe white mulberries? Are the unripe fruit toxic or poisonous?
What are white mulberries?
White mulberries are a seasonal summer fruit and nutraceutical, that is, a food that is eaten or taken as a dietary supplement in view of obtaining specific benefits for health. White mulberries are produced by the tree with the same name. There are two different types of white mulberries: white mulberries of the white mulberry species (scientific name: Morus alba) and white mulberries of the king white mulberry species, also known as the long mulberry (scientific name: Morus macroura).
What do white mulberries look like?
According to color and general appearance, there are two different types of white mulberries: a long variety and a variety that isn’t long. White mulberries from the Morus alba species, dubbed the white mulberry tree, are 2-3 cm (centimeters) long, plump and juicy when ripe. They go from a light green color when unripe to pearly white when almost completely ripe to a slightly off-white or white with a faint lavender or mauve tinge here and there when perfectly ripe. The overripe fruit is tinged lightly with brown where it starts to get mushy.
White mulberries from the Morus macroura species look visibly different: they are extremely long fruit, typically about 10 cm (centimeters) long, and look like a thick piece of fruit rope. They are light green when unripe and lighten to white and off-white as they ripen. The overripe parts get tinged with brown.
Mulberries are multiple fruits, that is, several actual mulberry fruits merged into one bigger piece of fruit. You can easily identify the individual botanical fruits (the actual mulberries) as the tiny swollen fruit granules forming what we colloquially call a ‘mulberry’ in both varieties of white mulberry.
There are also tiny black hairs stemming from each granule. The fruits are attached to the tree via a thin, but tough light green stem, longer in the longer mulberry variety and shorter in the other one.
Can you eat white mulberries?
White mulberries are good to eat in all forms and preparations. You can eat white mulberries raw, fresh or dried, cooked or otherwise processed (e.g. dried and finely ground for use as a dietary supplement, or fermented to make alcoholic beverages). White mulberries are not just edible, but also perfectly safe to eat. With the exception of an allergic background, in which case consumption is contraindicated, white mulberries do not cause side effects or pose health risks when consumed in normal food amounts.
Are white mulberries poisonous?
White mulberries are edible for humans, poultry, insects and birds that naturally feed on fruit. The fruits are not poisonous or toxic, so don’t worry if your pet eats one or two white mulberries out of boredom or curiosity. The ripe and especially overripe fruit serve as a food source for a variety of insect species, including garden wasps and tired honeybees looking for something sweet to eat to boost their energy levels.
What happens if you eat unripe white mulberries?
White mulberries, whether ripe or unripe, are not toxic and not poisonous as you may have read. The most that can happen if you eat a few unripe mulberries of the white variety is get a stomachache, possibly also some light cramps and loose stools. Allergic reactions however will occur irrespective of how ripe or unripe the fruit are because allergic reactions are unrelated to ripeness.
Another concern about eating unripe white mulberries put out there is that they are hallucinogenic. This is just a myth perpetuated by those who don’t have firsthand experience with mulberries. You won’t get hallucinations if you eat a few unripe or underripe white mulberries. But unripe fruit in general are not ok to eat. If you eat excessive amounts of unripe fruit, whether white mulberries or other kinds, you will get sick as the body is not meant to process high amounts of utterly unripe foods without side effects.
What do white mulberries taste like?
White mulberries have a distinct taste, different from other mulberry colors in the sense that they are straightforward sweet, with essentially no acidity or tartness. It is this plainly sweet taste that makes some people say that white mulberries taste bland. However, that is not even remotely true.
Perfectly ripe white mulberries that have received sufficient sunlight exposure are extremely sweet, honey-intensity sweet, with strong fruity flavors, and a crunchy, juicy and sticky consistency. But the fruit need to ripen completely and require sunny and warm weather to reach their taste potential. While white mulberries taste absolutely exquisite, it might just be that you prefer fruit that are both tart and sweet in which case go for black mulberries.
How do you eat white mulberries?
The absolute best way to eat white mulberries is straight off the tree when they are ripe. You can also eat dried white mulberries or take dried white mulberry dietary supplements for their health benefits. A great way to preserve white mulberries outside their season is freezing. You can also incorporate white mulberries in banana bread, sponge cakes or use them fresh as decoration for cakes, cupcakes and other baked sweets. For a modern twist, use fresh or dried white mulberries in smoothies – pair with banana, blueberries, raspberries.
Because the fruits are naturally high in pectin, they are great for making whole fruit jam. If you want to try making white mulberry jam, freeze the ripe fruits first to be able to remove the tough stem which would otherwise ruin the texture of the jam. Also, it helps to limit cooking time to preserve the fruit intact for a beautiful presentation.
Or just use the fresh fruit as topping for yogurt, oatmeal or other morning cereal. You can also ferment the overripe fruit with sugar and make an alcoholic beverage such as mulberry wine, or the Balkan traditional mulberry ‘tuica’ or mulberry eau-de-vie.
Tips on how to freeze white mulberries
Wash the ripe fruit by gently moving them around in a large bowl of water as soon as possible after harvesting – the pressure of running water may cause damage to very ripe fruit. Freeze the ripe fruit spread out on a tray at first, then, after the fruit are frozen solid, package them as per your preference. Freezing also makes it easier to remove the tough stem that is otherwise difficult to break off without significantly damaging the ripe fruit.
This post was updated on Monday / June 28th, 2021 at 12:38 AM