Mulberries: Morus sp.
year when we were kids, my siblings and I picked mulberries out of a
large tree in a nearby park. We liked the fruit, but not as well
as the blackberries and raspberries that ripened at the same time, and
our one attempt at a mulberry pie was pretty awful. So I put
mulberries out of my mind...until I started reading that mulberries
can provide all of the food you need for a pig or flock of chickens for
several months in the summer. Then, of course, my
ears perked up.
are the different kinds of mulberries? There are three
species of mulberries that can be found growing in the United
States. The White Mulberry (Morus alba)
is native to Asia, but was widely introduced in the nineteenth century
as fodder for a silk industry that never panned out. White
Mulberries are cold hardy, but have rather insipid fruits. Red
Mulberries (M. rubra) are a U.S. native with
tastier fruits than White Mulberries. Finally, Black Mulberries (M. nigra)
are members of another Asian species, this one selected primarily for
the highly tasty fruits. Unfortunately, Black Mulberries can't be
grown in many parts of the U.S. (like the southeast), but hybrids
between Red and White Mulberries (like the Illinois Everbearing
Mulberry) produce the best of both worlds --- tasty fruits on hardy
do you grow and prune mulberries?
Mulberries are one of those trees you mostly leave alone. Plant
them in full sun with fifteen feet of space on every side, then prune
out dead branches if you feel like it.
do you propagate mulberries?
Mulberries are difficult to grow from seeds since you must wait at
least a decade to know whether you've developed a good variety, and
since trees can change sex when young. More tried and true
propagation techniques include hardwood, softwood, or root cuttings and
grafting. When taking hardwood cuttings, split the lower ends of
the cutting or include a small heel of two year old wood to promote
rooting. Take softwood cuttings in midsummer and treat with a
do you harvest mulberries?
Be prepared for your tree to grow for a decade or more before it feels
like fruiting, especially if grown from seed. Once mulberries
begin to fruit, though, they're highly dependable since they bloom late
and are rarely affected by late spring frosts. Depending on which
variety you have, your tree will ripen its fruits over a month to three
months during the early to late summer. To harvest the fruits,
spread a sheet under the tree, shake the branches, then pour the
results into a bucket of water. The fruits will sink and
everything else will float off.
are mulberries a permaculture favorite?
Mulberries are one of the least picky fruit trees out there. They
don't mind drought, pollution, or poor soil, and often grow as weeds
even in harsh city environments. Even the varieties that aren't
quite up to par as people food produce wholesome berries that can feed
your pigs or chickens for up to three months during the summer.
The leaves are high in protein too.
you growing them?
I'd planned to buy an everbearing variety to put into our new forest
pastures this year
or next, but this post pushed me over the edge and I put in an order
for an Illinois Everbearing Mulberry in March.
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