Monday, May 26, 2014

Permaculture Tree - Mulberry

On the short list of favorite trees to use in permaculture - Mulberry. Handsome and fast growing, drought resistant even in our dry climate (7"/ 18cm of rain annually), with large canopy that cast much needed shade - this tree also have a lot to offer to critters, birds and people.


Mulberries bear delicious sweet berries, and survive late spring frost most of the time. That makes them most reliable of all fruit trees in a climate where temperature swings from warm and sunny to hard frosts - as it does in mountainous settings around the world. On occasion even mulberry will get frosted out, but that is rather unusual.

Berries are not commercially desirable, as they bruise and break easily - their skins very thin, and the pulp very juicy. Harvested by hand, berries are delectable fresh, on ice cream or yoghurt, or they can be frozen too. To freeze the berries, it is best to lay them one layer, not touching if possible, on a cookie sheet, and place in the freezer. Then, working fast, scoop frozen berries into a container, and store in the freezer. This method will keep berries from freezing into a solid ball of pulp!

There are several types of mulberries, with varying cold hardness and type of fruit. White and red, blue and black - small and large, berries vary in taste too. Some of the heirloom varieties from the Middle East are very high in sugar content and can be grown as sugar replacement. Such berries are less juicy, and can be harvested and dried with more ease. Ground or chopped, such mulberries are very good in muffins and other sweet baked goods.

When considering planting a mulberry, remember that tree produces an incredible yield of berries. Place it where fallen fruit and resulting staining of the ground is not going to be an issue. This tree is perfect for wildlife habitat plantings, for the areas that you might visit on occasion, places where birds and snakes rule and you are just a guest. Come June, head over there with a stepping stool and a bowl, get your harvest and your out-of-hand fill, and leave again for the animals to enjoy.

Birds will spread the seed and new trees will sprout, especially along fence lines and under any other perching items. If that is undesirable, keep an eye on volunteers and remove them promptly. The tree is vigorous and will grow very fast and strong.  As always in permaculture, it really pays back to study and understand this plant quite well, before planting it, so it finds a proper place in your ecosystem and can grow to its full potential.

Happy permaculture gardening! Share your experiences with me.
Thank you
- Arina

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