You know, I have to be completely honest with you, prior to looking at this house for the first time, the only time I ever heard about mulberries was in the children’s song “Pop Goes the Weasel.” In the version I am familiar with (apparently there are many), the verse goes “all around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel…” Well, it isn’t a bush, it’s a tree, and we have a minimum of five mulberry trees on our land.
So today we are going to address this silly song, teach you what I have learned about mulberries, and show you how I made some jam!
About the song: from what I learned after doing a little bit of research (and by little, I mean I read one article online that was surprisingly informative…) the lyrics were originally from a nursery rhyme, but the most popular British version (which is where this originates from) says absolutely nothing about mulberries. It was also a “country dance,” a jig, in 1850’s Britain. People would shout “pop goes the weasel” at different points during the dance, hence the name. From what I read, it sounds like the rhyme and the song for the dance were combined to resemble something similar to the tune we sang as children. You’re welcome for that history lesson! 🙂
The mulberry is a “multiple fruit” much like raspberries, where the larger fruit is comprised of many smaller berries joined together. While there are multiple varieties, the trees we have here are “red” mulberries, though the ripe fruit is nearly black in color. There is a black mulberry, but it is native to Asia. Any unripe parts of the mulberry can be “toxic, stimulating, or mildly hallucinogenic,” so it is not recommended to eat unripe mulberry. However, the partially unripened fruits contain natural pectin, so if you are making jam and you find a suitable recipe, you will not need to add any store-bought pectin. As for taste, Scott says it reminds him of a raspberry, though it is a little different. The kids thought they tasted like candy and proceeded to eat them as such 🙂
As for knowing when they are ripe, for this variety, you want to pick them when they are as black as possible. We have heard rumblings that when the birds start pooping purple on your car, you know it’s mulberry season. So if you start to notice purple bird poop and didn’t know there may be mulberries near you, start looking!
The use of the word “bush” in reference to a mulberry tree is inaccurate, though there are dwarf varieties of mulberry trees that are sometimes referred to as a bush. There are male and female trees, which means you need a mommy tree and a daddy tree to make all of those cute little baby mulberries…the male trees carry the pollen that the female trees need to make their “flowers” and fruit. In our area, the fruit usually ripens in the month of July. These trees are considered “invasive” in some areas and are not always valued for the fruit that they bring. In fact,there are many people who dislike the trees because of those purple droppings the birds leave on their vehicles.
On to the jam…I did not actually can this recipe, though the cans did seal. We go through so much jam and jelly at our house, that for two little jars, it just didn’t seem worth the hassle to water bathe them because it will all be gone in the next week anyway! But we can store it in the refrigerator unopened for up to three weeks.
The recipe I used called for 2 1/2 cups of mulberries, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, and 3Tbsp. water. You can leave all of the tiny green stems on, but I don’t like that kind of thing in my food, so I chose to remove all of the stems. Yes, it did take awhile.
In a pot, mix berries, sugar and water together and bring to a boil over medium heat, boiling for one minute. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the foam subsides and mixture thickens slightly. I timed that out at about 7 minutes.
Transfer jam into hot, sterilized jars, wipe mouth of jar with a clean cloth and put hot, sterilized lids on top. Tighten bands and voilà, you’re done! Let the jar cool for about 8 hours before using. This allows the jam to fully cool and for the jam to set. This will be a little runnier than some jams because it does not use pectin, but that will also depend on how many berries you used that were not fully ripe. Please note that I did NOT water bath can these jars…we put them in the refrigerator and used them right away. I believe they can be stored for up to two months that way, but I would do my own research if I were you to be safe 🙂
Seeing as how I had gone how many years never knowing anything about mulberries, I am pretty happy with how much I have learned in the past month! We did not harvest as many berries as we had hoped for…the trees just didn’t produce as much this year as they did last. On a brighter note, I have been climbing trees lately, so that’s cool! If we get more fruit next year, there will be a wine experiment, potentially a pie, and definitely more jam.
How about you, did you know all about mulberries before today? If so, what are your feelings on them: weed or not? What kind of recipes do you like using them in?
Coming later this week, trellises and solar dehydrators, plus a garden update!