Origin of Mulberry
India is home to many fruits in the Morus genus, and it shares this distinction with parts of China and Pakistan. According to the book, “Agro Cottage Industry Sericature,” mulberries originated near the lower slopes of the Himalayas. As early as 2800 BC, China’s Chang Tong province grew mulberry trees commercially for its ever-expanding silk industry.
Though white mulberries first grew in the Himlayan regions, The World AgroForestry Center points to Persia as the black mulberry’s origin. From this region, mulberry spread ancient Greece and Rome; and by the 12th century, Europe had both white and black mulberries.
Silk production was (and still is) a large, profitable industry for several countries, notably Italy, Turkey, India, and China. Indeed, mulberry production cannot be extricated from silk production and trade—silkworms feast on mulberry leaves. The tree’s introduction to other nations invariably stemmed from the country’s desire to produce its own silk garments, rather than pay for expensive imports. Even the Virginian colonists attempted to cultivate the trees as early as 1623. Though their efforts failed, the colonists opted to sell tobacco to Europeans in exchange for silk.
Initially, India imported much of its silk from China, as evident by its earliest name, “Chinsukh.” Assam produced a type of wild silk, although these worms thrived on castor leaves. The ancient treatise, Arthashastra (a publication likely produced between the 7th century BC and 2nd century BC) mentions Assam’s bourgeoning silk trade. By the Ahom period (1223-1819), India’s silk industry was thriving. The country’s current mulberry silk production is largely concentrated in the south.
Today, there are whopping 150 species in the Morus genus. Though India has many wild species growing throughout the country, approximately 17 varieties are grown commercially.
Availability of Mulberry in India
Mulberry cultivation occurs in almost all of India’s states. The primary grower of the fruit is Karnataka, as this state provides approximately 160,00 hectares for its growth. Distantly come Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, and West Bengal, respectively.
The primary mulberry variant grown in India is Morus indica. This type thrives in warm, balmy weather, making it best suited to the south of India.
A second well-known mulberry type is Morus alba, also known as white mulberry. This north Indian fruit naturally thrives in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Kashmir. White mulberries also grow in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
Another prominent mulberry variety is the Pakistan mulberry (Morus serrata): this variant is relegated to Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayas, and in the sub-Himalayas at an elevation up to 3,300 meters. This unusual, caterpillar-like mulberry has made waves in the US, and it’s sometimes found in California’s trendiest farmers markets.
A fourth type of common mulberry is the Himalayan mulberry (Morus laevigata). This type grows in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Assam, and Manipur. These trees may live for at least a couple hundred years.
|Pakistan mulberry, white mulberry, unknown mulberry|
Where to find Mulberry in India
Unfortunately for fruit lovers, farmers care more about the taste buds of silk worms than humans when it comes to mulberry production. Because India is the country venerated for its beautiful, flowing saris, most of mulberry’s production is dedicated to harvesting leaves for silkworm food and later, silk extraction.
Nonetheless, mulberry season occurs twice a year in the south of India; the first from October through November, and the second occurring March through May.
Despite the seasonal availability for mulberry, the fruit rarely makes its way into the markets. This is likely because of the fruit’s high perishability and difficult shipping requirements. Like strawberries and blueberries, these fruits require careful wrapping, packaging, and temperature-controlled storage. These limitations make it difficult to disperse mulberry to consumers. A person’s best chance of eating mulberries in India is finding them growing wild or being near a silkworm farm.
Checking for Ripeness in Mulberry
The adage for most mulberry varieties is, “the darker, the better.” The sweetest mulberries tend to be rich purple; almost black. Every part of the fruit should yield to the touch, and ideally, be a bit sticky.
Of course, white mulberries live up to their namesake and remain white even at peak ripeness. Additionally, some white mulberries have been cross-pollinated with other varieties, and are thus pink or red. In these cases, going by touch is the better bet.
Taste of Mulberry
If one finds blackberries too sour, they will likely think the same of mulberries. These rich, purple fruits are also one of the most tart berries. Mulberries have mild acidity and varying degrees of sweetness. The fruit’s ratio of sweet to tart is difficult to predict: It varies greatly between batches, and the fruits from some seasons taste better than others.
White mulberry’s flavor is more subdued than its purple counterparts: Indeed, it has less of a bite and tends not to be as sour. In this regard, the flavor differences between mulberry varieties resemble the differences between white and yellow peaches. Though white mulberries are usually sweeter, this also comes at the expense of robustness and a more interesting flavor.
Nutritional Value of Mulberry
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of edible mulberry contains the following values:
1.7g Fiber (7% RDI)
.4g Fat (1% RDI)
1.4g Protein (3% RDI)
36.4mg Vitamin C (61% RDI)
.9MG Vitamin E (4% RDI)
7.8mcg Vitamin K (10% RDI)
.1mg Riboflavin (6% RDI)
.6mg Niacin (3% RDI)
.1mg Vitamin B6 (4% RDI)
6mcg Folate (1% RDI)
39mg Calcium (4% RDI)
1.9mg Iron (10% RDI)
18mg Magnesium (5% RDI)
38mg Phosphorous (4% RDI)
194mg Potassium (6% RDI)
.1mg Copper (3% RDI)
Health Benefits of Mulberry
Mulberries are loaded with health benefits on account of its deep purple hue. Dark-skinned fruits—like cherries, pomegranates, grapes, and blueberries—have cancer-fighting polyphenols. Mulberries are no exception.
Traditionally, Ayurvedic practitioners have used mulberry leaves as an emollient and diaphoretic, and the fruits to treat depression and fever. To combat sore throats, some gargle a brew created from the leaves.
According to the book, “Invasive Plant Medicine,” white mulberry leaves treat fever, headache, dry eyes, and vertigo; and the bark treats wheezing, irritability, and facial swelling. The fruit itself is believed to be a remedy against constipation, premature aging, insomnia and tinnitus.
The scientific community has found incredibly promising health benefits for Morus fruits as well:
--Scientists in India published a study in Dovepress revealing Morus indica’s ability to decrease blood sugar levels and liver glycogen levels, thus illustrating antidiabetic and antioxidant potential.
--A 2012 study published in Life Sciences found that white mulberry has potent anti-ulcer compounds
--As per a study published in International Journal of Biological Sciences, the flavonoids found in white mulberry leaves combatted oxidative stress and cell death responsible for problems like hypo-cholesterol, hypoglycemia and cataract formation.
--Another study published in by the “International Journal of Diabetes in Developing Countries” affirmed the cholesterol lowering potential of white mulberry leaves
--A study published in “The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry” found that the anthocyanins in mulberries boost memory and may stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite these exceptional health benefits, the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the University of North Carolina states that white mulberries have low toxicity.
How to Open/Cut:
Mulberries require no preparation: eat out of hand, or add whole to recipes.
Long, caterpillar-like Pakistan mulberries are best eaten like a steamed artichoke heart: use teeth to scrape the fruit from the pith by pulling it out slowly, starting from the stem to its tip. The white center is perfectly edible, though not appetizing.
Keep mulberries in the cool, dry part of the fridge, where they should keep for a day or two. Avoid leaving the fruits at room temperature, as they’ll mold quickly, and wash mulberries only before consuming. It is possible to freeze mulberries: simply spread on a baker’s tray atop parchment, freeze, and then place in a freezer bag. Frozen mulberries keep for a year.
Mulberry Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Add mulberries to smoothies: these will turn the drink a rich, purple color
--Mash mulberries for pie filling. For every cup of fruit, use 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 heaping tablespoon of flour. Standard 9” pies require approximately 3 cups of fruit.
--Add mulberry juice to teas to savor their medicinal benefits.
--Use the juice in cocktails, and add them as a substitute in any recipe calling for cranberry juice. Garnish with thyme, mint, or lemon.
--Add pieces of mulberry to mueslis and breakfast cereals.
--Use fresh chopped or dried pieces in granola bars
--Dip long Pakistan mulberries in chocolate for a variation on chocolate-covered strawberries
--Make a mulberry sauce reduction to make ice cream toppings or for use in icing recipes
--Add chopped mulberry in lieu of cake, pancake, muffin, pancake, crepe or cupcake recipes calling for blueberries or blackberries
--Add mulberries to salad recipes, particularly ones with spinach, beets, pecans, and other light European salads. These too can be substituted for recipes requiring blackberries or raspberries.
--Make pancake syrup from blackberry reduction
--Break out mason jars and preserve blackberries into jams and spreads
--Add the juice to lemonade, as the tartness of the berry compliments lemon well.
--Make a cold soup by blending it with orange juice and adding pomegranate seeds.
--Ferment the berries to turn into liquor, as is common throughout several parts of India
--If wondering what to do with excess mulberries from a summer crop, dry the mulberries and use the fruits throughout the year in trail mix or cereals. Or, pulverize the dried fruits and take as a nutritional supplement
|Vegan mulberry hazelnut muffins from|
Blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, cherry, strawberry, date, fig, peach, plum, cacao, apricot, apple, melon
Herbs, oil, and spices: cranberry juice, orange juice, thyme, peppermint, lavender, sage, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, gin, port, ginger, black pepper, chocolate, almond, hazelnut, balsamic vinegar, coffee, cream
Pineapples and mulberries have more in common than one would think: Like pineapple, mulberries are what’s called a ”multiple” fruit. A single fruit is actually the compilation of several pistils of many grouped flowers, all formed on one piece.
Pakistan mulberries may grow up to 15 cm, making it appear even more snake-like than is already the case.
India has a center dedicated to preserving the genetic diversity of mulberry plants. This center is not under the purview of the agricultural department, but the ministry of textiles.
In the US, dried mulberries sell as a “superfood” for $16.00 for a 16-oz bag.
Chinni, shahtut, tutri (Hindi)
Kambli chedi, mussuketi (Tamil)
Kabrangchak angouba (Manipuri)