The white mulberry is native to eastern and central China. It became naturalized in Europe centuries ago. The tree was introduced into America for silkworm culture in early colonial times and naturalized and hybridized with the native red mulberry. The red or American mulberry is native to eastern United States from Massachusetts to Kansas and down to the Gulf coast. The black mulberry is native to western Asia and has been grown for its fruits in Europe since before Roman times.
All three mulberry species are deciduous trees of varying sizes. White mulberries can grow to 80 ft. and are the most variable in form, including drooping and pyramidal shapes. In the South on rich soils the red mulberry can reach 70 ft. in height. The black mulberry is the smallest of the three, sometimes growing to 30 ft. in height, but it tends to be a bush if not trained when it is young. The species vary greatly in longevity. Red mulberry trees rarely live more than 75 years, while black mulberries have been known to bear fruit for hundreds of years. The mulberry makes an attractive tree which will bear fruit while still small and young.
White and red mulberry fruits (and hybrid fruits) are ready for harvest in late spring. The fruit of black mulberries ripen in summer to late summer. The fruits of white mulberries are often harvested by spreading a sheet on the ground and shaking the limbs. A surprising quantity can be gathered from a comparatively small and young tree. Black mulberry fruits are more difficult to pick. As the berries are squeezed to pull them loose, they tend to collapse, staining the hands (and clothing) with blood red juice. Unwashed the berries will keep several days in a refrigerator in a covered container. The ripe fruits of the black mulberry contain about 9% sugar with malic and citric acid. The berries can be eaten out of hand or used in any way that other berries are used, such as in pies, tarts, puddings or sweetened and pureed as a sauce. Slightly unripe fruits are best for making pies and tarts. Mulberries blend well with other fruits, especially pears and apples. They can also be made into wine and make an excellent dried fruit, especially the black varieties.
Refreshingly succulent, tart and sweet mulberries are indeed rich in numerous health benefiting flavonoid phyto-nutrients. Botanically, the berries are obtained from the silkworm tree belonging to the moraceaefamily; of the genus: Morus. Scientific name: Morus nigra. L. In Spanish they are known as moras.
More than hundred species of morus exist. In taxonomy, species generally are identified not by the color of the fruits (berries) but by the color of flower buds and leaves. So, a morus plant can have different colored berries (black, purple, red, white etc) in the same plant.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF MULBERRIES
- low in calories (just 43 cal per 100 g); but are rich source of many health promoting plant derived compounds, minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
- have potential health effects against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections
- protective against stroke risk by alteration of molecular mechanisms in blood vessels, reducing susceptibility to vascular damage through decreased activity of angiotensin (a systemic hormone causing blood vessel constriction that would elevate blood pressure) and increased production of the vasodilator hormone, nitric oxide.
- excellent source of vitamin-C (36.4 mcg per 100, about 61% of RDI), which is also a powerful natural antioxidant. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents, counter inflammation and scavenge harmful free radicals.
- contain good amount vitamin A, vitamin E and in addition to the above mentioned antioxidants also contain many other health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such aslutein, zeaxanthin, ß-carotene and α-carotene in small but notably significant amounts. These compounds help act as protect from harmful effects of oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease process.
- antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions in the retina of eyes
- excellent source of iron, which is a rare feature among berries, contains 1.85 mg/100 g of fruits (about 23% of RDI). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.
- good source of minerals like potassium, manganese, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. rich in B-complex group of vitamins and vitamin K. Contain very good amounts of vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin and folic acid. These vitamins are function as co-factors and help body in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.