I really wish our cities were littered with Mulberry trees. Wait…. they are. Unfortunately most of the mulberry trees planted in Western urban areas do not bear any fruit. Ornamental, but sterile, these fruitless trees not only take up important growing space, but cause serious bouts of berry craving.
As the super stars: pear, apple, plum, peach and apricot attract fruit growers across the U.S. with their juicy round fruit, mulberries are somewhat of a wallflower in the West. Unfortunately, mulberries are not widely cultivated as a commercial crop because the berries are so fragile and hard to transport. I’ve only found a handful of fruiting mulberry trees in the Bay Area, compared to the hundreds and hundreds of lemon trees… too bad.
The mulberry situation improves the farther East you head. The Red Mulberry tree (Morus rubra) is native to eastern North America, ranging from Vermont to Florida and as far west as South Dakota. Mulberries were an important food staple for Native American tribes, but today mulberry trees are far less prevalent.
Mulberry trees have been are incredibly important in Chinese culture. The white mulberry (Morus alba) was cultivated 4000 years ago for silk worm production. In Chinese medicine the fruit is used to treat greying hair. The leaves are antibacterial and are used to treat eye infections and flu. Tinctures from the bark are used to treat a number of common ailments, notably toothaches.
Look at this berry!!
The largest mulberries come from Black Persian Mulberry trees (Morus nigra) which in California typically fruit in July. These berries can be four inches long and when timed right taste great. They do have an intense acidic/tart taste coupled with high levels of sugar. Most people absolutely love them.
The Morus alba mulberry tree is allegedly as good as the Black Persian berry. Look for “Oscars” and “Pakistan” varietals.
Mulberry trees are self-fertile and prefer well-drained soil. They should be planted in a sunny spot where they have plenty of room to grow. They will reach height 30 to 40 feet over the years. It takes a while for the tree to get established and you probably won’t be eating mulberries for five or more years. Delayed gratification. Everyone in your neighborhood will love you after 15 years when the tree reaches full production level.