Farm Focus: Mulberries

Consider all the types of berries you have eaten in your life time. What types can you come up with? Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and the list goes on…But have you ever tried a mulberry? We had not until a few years ago!

Historically, mulberries were produced for their foliage, not human consumption. People used their foliage for hearty silk worm and animal food, but the perishable and difficult to pick berries experienced limited human consumption. They were and are also very common foliage in backyards and parks. Commercial production of the mulberry is relatively recent — within the last 25 years — which is likely why you may have never tried one!

Twenty years ago, Farmer Al planted half an acre of Persian mulberries as a mere experiment. Since then, Al and his family have enjoyed topping their ice cream with these berries. The Persian mulberry resembles a blackberry in appearance. Farmer Al claims that it is even difficult for a pro to discern the difference! The berries are very sweet and juicy with a dark berry-like quality. Maybe the most pesky thing about them is that they will stain your hands black! Farmer Al has first hand experience of tracking in mulberry juice on his shoes and staining a floor with black spots — whoops! Because of this and their tendency to fall apart when they are picked, the Persian mulberry will never be accepted as a commercial fruit despite its delicious flavor.

Two years ago, however, Farmer Al became keen on planting mulberries. Last year, he planted an additional acre of mulberries that are on their way to being ready to pick in 2018. Farmer Al loves a good challenge and he doesn’t want the appreciation for this ancient fruit to die. He wants more people to enjoy the delicious taste of the mulberry. Though Persian mulberries will never be commercially produced, we do believe that another variety, the Pakistani mulberry, has commercial potential. The Pakistani mulberry has a completely different appearance and texture, though their trees look the same. The two varieties may be genetically different, but both are delicious. The Pakistani mulberry, in contrast, is a longer berry than its Persian cousin. It is approximately the diameter of a pencil and can grow up to 3 1/2 to 4 inches long. There are a few benefits to the Pakistani variety that give them commercial potential. First, they have long stems that can be cut without messing up the berries. They, also, ripen gradually on the tree which allows us to pick them over a longer period of time, thus extending their harvest. Lastly, they are proven to have a good shelf life and can maintain quality and appearance on your counter for up to five days. We have an entire acre, now, that we will be able to bring to your tables in 2018! Though they are not as juicy as the Persian variety, they are delicious and we hope to develop delicious Mulberry jams, jellies, and conserves! We will keep you updated.

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