The mulberries were so plentiful this year. It’s almost as if they knew they were doomed and were showing their best to sway us away from chopping them down. See, we have two mulberry trees on our property. The one stands above the blueberry and raspberry bushes with another tree currently laying in it, thanks to the winds of Hurricane Sandy. It has to come down eventually anyway because the berry patch hasn’t been getting enough sun. The other is next to the lane we use to get vehicles to the garden (for hauling manure and what not.) This one doesn’t have to come down completely but the lower branches, a la the ones we can reach for picking berries, need to be cut.
So this year, knowing this was the last year we might have easy access to mulberries and knowing how they were producing, I went out and picked everyday. I got stained fingers and bug bites and was pelted in the head by falling berries and had to bend myself into crazy positions to avoid stepping or standing in deer droppings but mulberries were feasted on or thrown into smoothies—plus there are five or so quart bags of mulberries in the freezer. (Awaiting the moment I can make try my hand at making jam or a pie or something.)
Here are a few mulberry picking tips I’ll share with you:
- The first and foremost important thing with foraging is to be certain of what you are picking and eating. Learn what mulberries look like. (Though, I can’t think of another berry that would be dangerously confused.)
- Mulberries don’t ripen all at once. There will be a lot of unripe berries so you don’t have to drop what your doing to pick today. I figured I was picking pretty consistently a little over a week.
- I learned last year (though not from personal experience) that the unripe white-ish ones can be hallucinogenic or even toxic. So avoid them.
- It works best to have two or more people picking—one to pull the branches down and the other to pickpickpick. Be sure to pull and let go of the branch gently or it will rain mulberries.
- Mother natures knows when they are ripest. Most of the time you can just touch them and they’ll drop off the branch, though a slight pull might necessary for the rest. If you really need to pull, they aren’t ready. Try again for those tomorrow.
- Be gentle with the mulberries in general. They bruise easily.
- Another way to pick, which I think would work best a little later or when your tired of handpicking, is to lay a sheet on the ground and shake the branches. Though I found I had to spend just as much time sifting through the bad ones, dead twigs and debris.
- Come to terms with the fact that there will be a lot on the ground and way up in the tree that you just can’t save or pick.
- Your fingers will get stained. As will your shoes. And you will probably get hit in the head by falling mulberries.
- But the most annoying thing about mulberries is their stem. I’ve learned to live with them but the stems are one of the reasons why they aren’t too popular and why they aren’t grown commercially. You can clip them off carefully with small scissors. In which case, I commend you.
- To my knowledge there are three kinds of mulberries: red, white and black. The red and white ones, ripen in late spring/early summer. The black ripen in late summer.
Do you like mulberries?