It’s late summer here in Minnesota, and the mulberry trees are overflowing! A few of them fruited earlier, but there are still plenty of good ones left. Mulberries are delicious, nutritious, and plentiful.
We went out picking today, and had a blast! Here’s how you can gather mulberries with your kids and make it fun and easy.
Once you’ve seen a mulberry, you’ll never mistake it for anything else. The mulberries are about 1/2″ to 1″ long and come in all shades of white, red, and black. When you find one tree, you’ll start seeing them everywhere. At our local county park, we’ve found 20 trees so far and find a new one every day. If you’re not positive, Wildman Steve Brill’s website has all the information you’ll need to identify them.
There are actually two kinds of mulberry trees – the native red mulberries and white mulberries, which are originally from Asia and were imported in the early 1800s. In addition, the two species have hybridized over the years so there are pink mulberries as well. But no matter what color they are, they are delicious.
The red mulberries are actually black when they’re ripe, while the white mulberries turn an off-white. The pink mulberries can be anywhere in between. The way to tell if the berries are ripe is by feel — unripe berries are hard to the touch and are hard to pull off while the ripe ones are softer, tacky to the touch, and will fall off the tree easily.
You and your helpers can pick the ripe berries by hand, and while this is the best way to get only the ripe ones, it’s also the slowest way (and you can only reach the lower branches). The easiest way to harvest them is to spread an old sheet on the ground and lightly shake the branches. The ripe ones will come down. When you’ve got one section of the tree fairly clear, look over the sheet and pick out the ripe ones. Put them in a container, shake out the sheet, and move on to the next section. Repeat.
When you have enough berries, bring them home. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and inspect them for any stray berry bugs (they’ll be skittering around). Pick out any unripe mulberries too – they’re not toxic, but will have a nasty effect on your digestive system.. Then put the mulberries in a sink of cool water for a few minutes to clean them off and make sure all the bugs are out. Don’t worry about the stems — they remain attached to the berries, but are soft and edible and you don’t need to remove them.
Strain them to let them dry, and you’re ready. You can either use them right away or flash freeze them for later. Put them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and let them freeze for at least 4 hours until the berries are solid, then put them in freezer bags. This way you’ll have berries again when you thaw them instead of a frozen blob, and you can measure out different amounts.
Coming up in my next article: 10 delicious ways to use mulberries!