Seasonal Spotlight: Mulberries

The majority vote on our unidentified berry last week was that it came from a mulberry tree, and we agree! Thanks for chiming in, everyone. While we wait for enough berries to ripen for us to make something, we thought we'd take a closer look at the treasure we've found. What do you like to make with mulberries?

The berries are fully ripe when they turn from pink to deep purple and pull easily from the stem. There is also a white variety native to east Asia that jumped the ocean at some point and can now be found in many of our back yards. Normally white berries are a sign of poison, but in this case, they're very edible!

We've never seen mulberries sold commercially, but the trees grow throughout the United States, so keep an eye out for them at farmer's markets. Or look for mulberry trees at the edges of fields and wild spaces - we found one site that said mulberries are often planted in those places as windbreaks because they grow so quickly. To identify a mulberry tree, go to our original mulberry post for pictures of the berries, tree, and leaves.

The dark varieties are sweeter than they are tart, tend to be very juicy, and have a fairly tough inner core. They can be used like any other berry and would make a close substitute for blackberries in any recipe.

On the sweet side, mulberries can be used to make jams, pies, or even cordials, and they go well in quick breads like muffins and scones. We found several of recipes pairing them with citrus flavors, particularly orange. We like the idea of featuring mulberries on their own, but it would also be interesting to mix them with other seasonal fruits like blueberries, raspberries, and peaches.

Mulberries can also be used in savory cooking. Simmered down and strained, the juice would make a great sauce for steak or it could be used in a vinaigrette for salad. Dark berries also pair well with game meats and can be used in stuffings or thrown into a braise. Herbs like sage, thyme, and bay leaf round out the flavors.

Here are a few recipes we came across in our research. We wish we had enough berries to try them all!

Mulberry-Orange Muffins from Pleasant House
Mulberry and Pecan Bread Pudding from ABC News
Mulberry Wine from Food Reference
Mulberry Cream Tarts from Sunny Raw Kitchen
Berbere and Mulberry Glazed Duck from The Splendid Table

How do you like to use mulberries?

Related: Fallen Fruit: A Collaborative Community Project

(Image: Flickr member akeg licensed under Creative Commons)