The mulberry tree is one that has been long forgotten. If you speak to younger people about mulberries, most of them probably have never even heard of them. The mulberry tree has a very long life span, ranging from 500 to 1000 years. Just imagine the benefits you can get from fruits that come from an almost ‘immortal’ tree. And there are about 16-17 species of mulberry, the following three being the reference point for the species: Morus nigra, usually referred to as the black mulberry tree, Morus rubra, also known as the red mulberry tree and Morus alba, or the white mulberry tree.
The black mulberry tree (Morus nigra) produces significantly more fruits compared to the other two species of mulberry, but a rich soil and sufficient rainfall can make any tree of the species a heavy bearer of fruit. Its fruits are honey sweet and juicy. Truthfully, once you have tasted them, you might consider choosing black mulberries over strawberries or any other berries. I know I do. When ripe, some white mulberries can turn partly pink. Nevertheless, they are juicy, flavorful and extremely sweet.
What do mulberries look like?
Mulberries look a lot like other berries, except you find them growing on tree branches. On average, mulberry fruits are 2-5 cm long, but some species like the Pakistan red mulberry or Himalayan mulberry are known to produce 3 inch long fruit (7.6 cm). Usually, fruit have an elongated shape, but a rich soil and plenty of rainfall can make them quite plump, almost round-looking and juicy.
Mulberries are compound fruit, meaning each fruit is actually made up of several others. As for their color, the unripe fruit are often a light green, but in some species they may be either white or a pale yellow. Ripe mulberries are white, pink, red-purple, dark purple, almost black. Just as interesting, the white mulberry tree has cultivars that produce white, red and purple-black fruits, so it is not always very helpful to botanically identify mulberry species by fruit color. But you can definitely eat them.
What do mulberries taste like?
The taste of mulberries is highly dependent on soil quality, amount of rainfall and sunshine the tree and fruits receive. Under ideal conditions, white mulberries should be juicy and extremely sweet, but some find they are not quite as flavorful as the other colors. Red and black mulberries should be extra juicy and extremely sweet tasting with strong fruity flavors and a rich flavor profile.
Red mulberries that are not yet fully ripe may have a slight tart flavor, but it fades as they reach an optimal level of ripeness. Black mulberries are sticky, honey-sweet with the most complex fruity flavor profile and a pleasant, but mild tartness to them that compliments the sweet taste beautifully. The white fruit ripen first, in very late spring to early summer, followed by red ones. Black mulberries ripen last are are in season mid to late summer.
Do mulberries stain clothes and skin?
Both red and black mulberries stain clothes, as well as skin such as the fingertips. The staining on the clothes can be irreversible, while staining of the skin can last for up to several days. With this in mind, maybe it’s a good idea to not wear your best clothes when gathering mulberries, especially dark colored ones.
Nutrition facts and benefits
Eating mulberry fruits contributes to higher energy levels as a result of their generous B vitamins and iron content. Mulberries are also a good food to eat for anemia thanks to a good content of iron for red blood cell production and a high content of vitamin C which helps boost iron absorption.
- How much iron in mulberries? 100 grams of raw, ripe mulberries provides 14% of total daily iron values for the average adult. While the iron in mulberries is less bioavailable, the vitamin C in the fruit helps boost absorption.
- How much vitamin C in mulberries? Mulberries provide over 40% of daily vitamin C values for the average adult.
The vitamin C from mulberries further exerts immunomodulating effects by stimulating the immune system response and actively supporting the immune system function. Mulberries are further a source of antiaging benefits owed to their high content of vitamin C, but also pigmented and non-pigmented antioxidants.
Dark colored fruits such as red and especially black mulberries are generally good sources of micronutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals, and contain highly biologically active antioxidants. Red and black mulberries contain high levels of bioactive flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins.
Studies have shown that eating dark-red fruit like mulberries can protect against diabetes, bacterial infections, neurological diseases and even some forms of cancer. The protective effect is owed primarily to pigmented anthocyanin antioxidants, the same found in black tomatoes, purple Amelanchier berries or serviceberries as well as black raspberries and purple raspberries and black cherries.
In addition to this, red and black mulberries help reduce inflammation in the body and even exert antiaging activities that help slow down the aging process at cell level. The anti-inflammatory and anti-aging benefits are owed primarily to pigmented anthocyanin antioxidants, and scientifically proven.
Mulberries further contain resveratrol, a natural antioxidant, anti-mutagen and anti-inflammatory that can also be found in red wine. Resveratrol, which is a polyphenol flavonoid, helps prevent strokes by modifying the molecular mechanisms within blood vessels. Resveratrol reduces vascular damage by lowering the angiotensin hormone responsible for vasoconstriction and high blood pressure and increasing levels of nitric oxide, a vasodilator hormone. In other words, eating mulberries can help lower blood pressure, offering cardiovascular benefits.
Mulberries are especially rich in vitamin C, as you can see in the nutrition table below. A serving of 100 g of fresh mulberries has 36.4 mg of vitamin C, providing close to half of your minimum recommended daily intake of the essential micronutrient. Eating foods rich in vitamin C means your body will be better equipped to fight off infections and enjoy a speedy recovery.
Moreover, vitamin C actively contributes to reducing inflammation levels in the body and exerts antioxidant effects, scavenging free radicals and helping prevent, reduce and reverse free radical damage to cells.
Mulberries contain small amounts of vitamin E with benefits for skin health and antioxidant effects, but have almost no vitamin A: less than 1% of the RDI (recommended daily intake) for an average adult.
The fruit are also a good source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B9 (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and folate) which help the body synthesize carbohydrates, proteins and fats from food to provide energy and combat fatigue. B vitamins are vital for brain and nervous system health and eating mulberries can help enhance memory and combat foggy thinking and mental fatigue.
Mulberries are also a good source of vitamin K with reputable antibleeding effects and anti-inflammatory benefits. How much vitamin K in mulberries? The fruit contain 7.8 mcg (micrograms) per 100 g. Vitamin K supports blood coagulation, helps prevent bleeding from nosebleeds and easy bruising as well as exerts a strong anti-inflammatory action.
Last but not least, mulberries are a good source of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper and iron. Calcium and magnesium contribute to better bone density. Magnesium further helps calm agitation and is good for the heart and other muscles. Potassium is an electrolyte which helps keep the cells of the body hydrated and lowers high blood pressure numbers by counteracting the effects of a high sodium intake.
Copper in mulberries helps preserve hair and eyes pigment. Lastly, 100 g of mulberries provides 1.85 mg of iron, which is about 14% of the recommended daily intake for the average adult, based on the new and updated Reference Daily Intakes of nutrients from food.
The type of iron in mulberries is non-heme and is different from the iron in meat and fish. Fortunately, the vitamin C in the fruit helps ensure a maximum absorption level, making mulberries a good choice for preventing and reversing anemia. Mulberries further contain very small quantities of lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, which play a crucial role in the fight against the infamous free radicals and promote good eyesight.
More mulberry facts
When do mulberries fruit and ripen?
Mulberries, wonderfully flavorful and sweet, are seasonal fruits and are naturally in season roughly from May till late August. Fruiting starts roughly one month to one month and a half before the ripening process begins, and even two or more months in the case of black mulberries. However, different regions may see different fruiting and ripening patterns. Fruiting and ripening are also impacted by yearly weather conditions.
- When are white mulberries in season?
Where I live, white mulberries ripen first, usually late spring to early summer. This means they are in season late May – mid June at the earliest to late June – mid July.
- When are red (pink) mulberries in season?
Red mulberries ripen right after white mulberries and they are in season mid summer, roughly late June – early July to mid July – early August.
- When are black mulberries in season?
Black mulberries ripen last and they are usually in season starting with mid July and up until late August. Of course, ripening season may vary from region to region and year to year depending on climate and yearly weather variations.
You’ll hardly find mulberries available to buy; even at the farmers’ market they are a scarce presence. But you can easily forage for them as mulberry trees are quite plentiful in some regions, being a secular presence in the wild, parks and even front and back yards. And they are easy to recognize: high up on mighty trees, the slightly elongated, but plump and juicy white, pink, red and black fruits occur abundantly and fall to the ground from sheer sticky-sweet ripeness if not picked on time.
And here’s something you might find interesting: did you know that there are mulberry trees that never produce any fruit? These are the male counterpart of the female mulberry tree and are a prolific source of allergenic pollen in spring. Some people are very allergic to mulberry pollen and experience severe allergic rhinitis during spring from exposure to the pollen.