If you’ve never hunted down a red mulberry tree in June and eaten double handfuls of sweet berries, you ought to give it a try. Mulberries are common in our area and can be found on rich, moist sites in fencerows or along woodland edges.
Mulberry is a small tree, usually growing 20-40 feet tall and 8-15 inches in diameter. It forms a dense, round topped crown of leaves that are toothed along the edges, somewhat sand-papery feeing above and hairy below. There are three different leaf shapes, one more or less heart shaped, one mitten shaped with a large and small lobe, and one trident shaped with three lobes.
The fruit is blackberry-like, but longer and purpler in color. An easy way to find a mulberry tree is look for purple stains on roads as you drive along. Chances are there’s a mulberry tree there dropping fruit. They are enjoyed by songbirds of all types, as well as fox, opossum, raccoons, and squirrel.
For humans the berries can be used fresh, or made into jelly or pies (requires pectin). A juice can be made by heating the fruit in just enough water to cover, crush, and then simmer until soft. Strain and sweeten to taste.
The easiest way to harvest mulberries is to spread an old sheet or piece of plastic under a tree and give the branches a good shake. Do take the kids along when foraging mulberries, as they need contact with nature to learn its simple delights and importance.
Because of its compact shape and size, mulberry would make an interesting yard tree. It would attract birds and provide shade for the soul and fruit for the body.