The famous subject of a children’s nursery rhyme and the favoured diet of the silkworm – mulberries are not very well known as a domestic fruit.
In appearance they most resemble loganberries or raspberries but mulberry fruit rival and even outperform cranberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries when it comes to phytoactive ingredients.
The mulberry’s levels of antioxidants are 79% higher than blueberries and 24% more than those found in cranberries. Not only that but mulberries are packed full of vitamins and fibre and contain high levels of resveratrol – the antioxidant super hero which is the focus of so much scientific interest across a wide range of disciplines.
It is the high level of antioxidants in mulberries that make them an excellent weapon in the fight against infection. A recent report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases concluded that that resveratrol decreased the reproduction of the influenza virus. In other studies links are also being made between high levels of antioxidants in the diet and protection from some of the most distressing diseases of our age – chronic diseases like Alzheimers, many forms of cancer and Parkinsons
“Drinking a glass of mulberry juice every day will help boost antioxidant levels in the body which is thought to help prevent or reduce cell damage caused by oxidation….Mulberries really are the next generation of superfruits.” Anita Bean BSc R.Nutr.
Botanically the fruit is not a berry but a collective fruit, in appearance like a swollen loganberry. When the flowers are pollinated, they and their fleshy bases begin to swell. Ultimately they become completely altered in texture and colour – becoming succulent, fat and full of juice.
There are many species of the genus Morus of which around 10-15 are generally accepted. Of these the most cultivated are: the white mulberry (Morus alba); black mulberry (Morus nigra) and the American mulberry or red mulberry (Morus rubra).
Morus alba or white mulberry was introduced into England and France in the 17th century for silk worm cultivation and it is the white mulberry which is the subject of Van Gogh’s wonderful 1889 painting – completed between bouts of mental illness during his self-imposed stay in the Saint Remy Asylum.
Interestingly enough the colour of the mulberry fruit does not identify the mulberry species. White mulberries, for example, can produce white, lavender or black fruit and red mulberry fruits are usually a very deep red – almost black.
White mulberry fruits are generally sweet but the juice is often lacking in needed tartness. The best flavoured and most juicy of the mulberry fruits is the black mulberry which have a lovely balance of sweetness and tartness and make the best pressed juices. The refreshing underlying tartness is something like a sweet grapefruit.
“As for the mulberry trees…I painted one, when its dense foliage was a magnificent yellow colour against a very blue sky, on a white stony field with the sunshine from behind.” Vincent Van Gogh, Saint Remy Asylum, October 1889
Mulberry fruit in juice form are starting to make an appearance in good supermarkets in the UK as the focus on their health enhancing qualities increases. Consumer awareness is still quite limited – even though the fruit has such a long history of cultivation in North Europe.
With intense interest on the natural world as a source of anti ageing and protective ingredients – that may be about to change.
(Read further botanical information about the Morus genus)