Friday, June 18, 2010

It's Mulberry Time!

For all of you hunter-gatherers, nature afficiandos and raw food lovers throughout the Albany area, it's Mulberry time! I tweeted an alert this morning that fresh, free mulberries were available at the corner of Allen & Mercer in Albany, where the big tree at the corner is loaded with luscious large blue-black mulberries! There are several other trees areound the city (I mapped them all when I was a member of a bicycle-nature club back during the summer of 2006).

The Mulberry ::: For whatever reason, this scrumptious little fruit tree can be found dotting city streets in Albany (look around)!
The ripe fruit is edible and is widely used in pies, tarts, wines and cordials. The fruit of the Black Mulberry, native to southwest Asia, and the Red Mulberry, native to eastern North America, have the strongest flavour. The fruit of the White Mulberry, an east Asian species which is extensively naturalised in urban regions of eastern North America has a different flavour, sometimes characterised as insipid. The mature fruit contains significant amounts of resveratrol. It is known, though, that unripe fruit and green parts of the plant have a white sap that is intoxicating and mildly hallucinogenic. Aha!

Black, red and white Mulberry are widespread in Northern India and Pakistan and Iran, where the tree and the fruit are known by the Persian-derived names Toot (Mulberry) or Shahtoot (King's or "Superior" Mulberry). Jams and sherbets are often made from the fruit in this region.

Mulberry leaves, particularly those of the White Mulberry, are also ecologically important as the sole food source of the silkworm, the cocoon of which is used to make silk. Other Lepidoptera larvae also sometimes feed on the plant including Common Emerald, Lime Hawk-moth and The Sycamore.

Mulberries can be grown from seed, and this is often advised as seedling-grown trees are generally of better shape and health. However, they are most often planted from large cuttings, which take root readily.
So, why are these trees in Albany... who brought them here?

My first introduction to the Mulberry was through my best friend Don, who brought over a bottle of "fresh mulberry juice" one day. There were many Mulberry trees scattered throughout Arbor Hill and the South End, most of them cut down in the mid-1970's through mid-1980's, a greater number lost when the old South End was demolished to make way for the Empire State Plaza.
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  1. Would it be okay if I took a handful of leaves for my silkworms?

  2. Silkworms only eat fresh mulberry leaves (or artificial food). I think they would enjoy them!


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