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Mulberries are technically an aggregate of many tiny fruits arranged concentrically around a central stem. They have the immediate appearance of an elongated blackberry and are almost jet black in color with the occasional ruby blush. They are aromatic and literally sticky sweet, their coloring so deep and texture so fragile and syrupy that they stain at the slightest touch. On the palate, they offer flavors of blackberry jam, baking spices, cassis and a hint of woodsy cedar. Mulberries ripen exceedingly fast, are highly perishable and should therefore be eaten almost immediately after harvest.
Mulberries are available briefly during mid-summer.
The Mulberry is a member of Moraceae family and the Morus genus. There are over 150 different species of Mulberries producing fruits that range from jet black to pure white. Three main species have been recognized for their economic importance, White mulberry (Morus alba), Red or American mulberry (M. rubra) and Black mulberry (M. nigra). The Mulberry rose to importance in congruence with the silk industry, as its fruit and leaves are the sole food source of the silk worm. They remain prolific in modern day Turkey where the famous Turkish silk carpets are distributed throughout the world.
Mulberries are a rich supply of antioxidants and the phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals, resveratrol and anthocyanin. They supply vitamins A, C, E, K, B-complex group, beta-carotene, lutein, iron, potassium, manganese, niacin, riboflavin and folic acid.
Mulberries are commonly used in ice cream, sorbet, jams, jellies, beverages, gastriques, and baked goods, especially pies. They can be substituted for blackberries, but are considerably sweeter and have a lower moisture content. Be sure to remove their inner stem, which may be fibrous, or thoroughly puree to avoid any unwanted fragments. Complimentary pairings include other bramble berries, stone fruit, young cheeses such as burrata and chevre, pork, duck, wild game, basil, mint, baking spices, and arugula, cream, mascarpone and citrus.
There are several references to the Mulberry in the works of William Shakespeare. For instance, in the tragedy Coriolanus, he mentions the fragility and staining quality of ripe Mulberries, “now humble as the ripest mulberry that will not hold the handling”.
The earliest documentation of Mulberries traces them back to China. They became naturalized in Europe centuries ago with the westward expansion of the “Silk Road”. They were eventually introduced into America during early colonial times when General Oglethorpe imported 500 White mulberry trees to Fort Frederica in Georgia in 1733. He wanted to encourage silk production at the English colony of Georgia, but was unsuccessful. Today Mulberries still grow in China as well as throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, Northern Africa and within limited regions of the United States.
Recipes that include Mulberries. One is easiest, three is harder.