In April mulberry trees produce fruit. There are a number of different varieties of mulberry that grow in North Cyprus.
⦁ White Mulberry/Beyaz Dut (Morus alba L.) – this is a broad-crowned deciduous tree, which grows to 10-15m in height and is native to China. It was originally brought to Cyprus to enable the rearing of silkworms as the fruit and leaves are the main food of the silkworm larvae. The trunk has long furrows and can grow to 60-70cm in diameter. The leaves are dark green slightly heart-shaped at the base and with bluntly toothed margins. The flowers appear in March and April, the male catkins are longer than the female ones, which develop into whitish or purple fruit. Cypriots prefer the taste of white mulberries, which are sweeter, but have a more subtle taste, however Western Europeans tend to prefer the fruit of the Black Mulberry. The Cypriot conserve made with White Mulberries has a subtle, but excellent taste.
In Lapta, once famous for its silk-weaving villagers preferred to grow this tree, and it is still commonly found around this area. The leaves were used to feed sheep and goats as well as silkworms.
⦁ Black Mulberry/Kara dut (Morus nigra) – this tree has been cultivated across much of Europe including Ukraine and east into China. It is believed to have originated in mountainous areas of Persia and Mesopotamia and spread into Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey and Syria. forms a broad-crowned tree growing to approx. 10m in height. The simple, deeply heart shaped leaves, are rough on the upper side. The fruit is initially reddish, but when ripe turn to a deep wine colour or almost black. In North Cyprus the fruit are used to make Pekmez. Fruit bearing trees have both male and female flowers, but ornamental sterile trees are often grown in gardens for their foliage. The Black Mulberry can be used to feed silkworms, but the silk produced is considered inferior, because the larvae prefer the leave of the White Mulberry.
⦁ Red Mulberry/Kırmızı dut (Morus rubra) – This is also a broad-crowned deciduous tree which grows to about 12m in height. It is similar in appearance to White and Black mulberry trees, but the fruit is red or pink in colour. They are often planted on new housing estates by landscape gardeners.
⦁ Paper Mulberry/Kaǧıt Dudu (Broussonetia papyrifera vent.) – this is handsome round-topped deciduous tree or shrub, which grows to 16m high. The trunk has a silvery criss-cross pattern. It has oval leaves resembling those of the plane tree. This is one of the rarest trees in North Cyprus. Examples can be seen in the grounds of the Girne Belediye and opposite the old police headquarters. It is a native of China and Japan, where the bark was and is sometimes still used for making paper. It was also used for making cloth on the Pacific Islands.
White and Red mulberries can be found for sale in greengrocers and vegetable markets during the fruiting season.
Mulberries are filled with nutrients that are important for our body, including iron, riboflavin, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. They also contain a significant amount of dietary fiber and a wide range of organic compounds, including phytonutrients, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, anthocyanins, lutein, and various polyphenolic compounds.
A cup of raw mulberries has 60 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein and is high in water content (over 70 percent).
Mulberries are thought to assist in weight loss, promote digestive health, lower cholesterol, promote immune system, increase blood circulation, slows down aging process, lower blood pressure, build bone tissue, prevent certain cancers, improve overall metabolism of the body and protect eye health.
Aid in Digestion - mulberries contain dietary fibre, a single serving contains 10% of your daily requirements. Dietary fibre improves digestion by bulking up the stool, thereby speeding up the movement of food through the digestive tract, while also reducing occurrences of constipation, bloating, and cramping. Furthermore, fibre helps regulate cholesterol levels and can improve heart health when regularly added to the diet.
Increase Circulation - mulberries have a high iron content which can significantly boost the production of red blood cells. This means that the body will increase its distribution of oxygen to important tissues and organs, thereby helping to boost metabolism and optimize the functionality of those systems.
Regulate Blood Pressure - Resveratrol is a very important flavonoid that directly affects the functioning of certain mechanisms in blood vessels, making them less prone to damage by angiotensin, which can cause blood vessel constriction. Resveratrol increases the production of nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator. This means that it relaxes blood vessels and reduces the chances of blood clot formation. Resveratrol is found in many dark-skinned berries like mulberries, including most grapes, which is why this beneficial antioxidant is also found in wines.
Improve Vision - One of the carotenoids found in mulberries is zeaxanthin, which has been connected directly to a reduction in oxidative stress on certain ocular cells, including the retinal macula lutea. Furthermore, zeaxanthin functions as an antioxidant and prevents certain damage to the retina, including the free radicals that can cause macular degeneration and cataracts.
Anti-inflammatory - mulberry leaves have anti-inflammatory properties, which can limit the body’s inflammatory response to chronic diseases. Mulberry leaf tea can also be used to reduce inflammatory pain.
Boost Immunity - A single serving of mulberries provided almost your entire requirement of vitamin C for the day, combined with the minerals and vitamins present in this fruit, it can improve your immunity levels.
Build Healthy Bones - Vitamin K, calcium, and iron, as well as the trace amounts of phosphorus and magnesium found in mulberries, are beneficial for the creation and maintenance of bone tissue. As we age, maintaining strong bones, speeding up the healing process, or even reversing the damage of bone degradation is important to prevent conditions like osteoporosis or other age-related bone disorders.
Reduce Bad Cholesterol - Regular intake of mulberry leaf powder and mulberry leaf tea can significantly reduce triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which helps prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Prevent Premature Aging - Mulberries have high levels of vitamin A and vitamin E, plus carotenoid components like lutein, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and alpha-carotene. These elements act as antioxidants that specifically affect the skin, tissue, hair, and other areas of the body where free radicals strike. Mulberries can aid in skin care, reduce the appearance of blemishes and age spots, and keep hair shiny and healthy by preventing the oxidative actions of free radicals.
Prevent cancer - Mulberries are packed with antioxidants that acts as a main line of defence against free radicals which form as harmful by-products of cellular metabolism and could damage healthy cells which causes them to mutate into cancerous cells. Some studies have suggested that mulberries are effective attacking prostate cancer cells.
Retention of hair colour - Some traditional Chinese herbs if combined with Mulberries helps to prevent early greying of hair, due to containing iron, calcium, Vitamin B and C.
Mulberries have been used in the past for the following:
⦁ Leaves have been used to make a gargle for treating sore throats or drunk as tea to treat influenza, colds, nosebleeds and eye infections.
⦁ A tincture made from bark is used to provide relief from toothache.
⦁ Fruits are used for treating tinnitus, urinary incontinence, constipation and premature greying of hair.
⦁ The root bark has been used to make a tea for treating coughs, asthma, oedema, bronchitis, diabetes and hypertension
⦁ Bark is used to eliminate tape worms.
⦁ The plant extracts possess fungicidal and antibacterial activities.
Possible Side Effects of Eating Mulberries
⦁ Skin cancer - Mulberries contain the hydroquinone, arbutin which is a compound which helps to lighten skin, by preventing melanin release. Hydroquinones can have carcinogenic side effects which could cause skin cancer.
⦁ Kidney problems - Mulberries contain high levels of potassium which worsens gall bladder pains or kidney disorders. Although potassium has health benefits, patients with kidney problems, such as kidney stones should limit their potassium intake so should avoid mulberries.
⦁ Hypoglycemia - Mulberries help to reduce blood sugar and therefore if eaten in high quantities could cause hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a condition which results in headache, dizziness, blurred vision, confusion, excessive sweating and tremors.
⦁ Obstructs absorption of carbohydrates - Mulberries can reduce carbohydrate and triacyglycerol absorption.
Side effects – a few people have experienced allergic reactions including swelling of skin, skin rashes, red spots, inflammation and itching from consuming mulberries
⦁ Liver ailments - people with liver problems should avoid consuming mulberries.
⦁ Stomach problems – some people experience irritation, pain and cramps after consuming mulberries.
⦁ Hallucination – some people have reported experiencing hallucination after consuming mulberry.
⦁ Pregnant and breastfeeding women – mulberries might cause harmful side effects.
Picking & Storing Mulberries
In North Cyprus, mulberries can be purchased from greengrocers or vegetable markets, but many people have their own trees. When mulberries are ripe they fall to the ground, so you can collect by spreading a cloth beneath a tree and shaking the branches. You can also pick direct from the tree, but make sure you only pick those fruits which separate from the tree with ease, indicating they are ripe.
One of the downsides, which has meant mulberries are not very suitable for commercial growing and harvesting is that the berries ripen at different times. If you have a tree in your garden this is an advantage, as you can pick a steady supply of mulberries over a period of around 1 month – 6 weeks.
It is advisable when picking to wear gloves as mulberry juice stains badly. Once picked mulberries can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, preferably in an air tight container.
Berries should not be washed until use, to avoid damage during washing. When washing place the mulberries in a large bowl of water and leave for a few minutes. This will allow any tiny white worms which are sometimes present to disengage from the fruit and come to the surface. The worms are harmless and will not cause any issues if consumed. Drain the fruit and then snip out their inner stem, which may be fibrous and does not break down during cooking and impairs the flavour.
Mulberries freeze well and can be kept in a freezer for 6 months. To freeze, wash the fruit and allow to drain, lay on a no-reactive tray in the freezer for a few hours until lightly frozen, they can then be packed into plastic bags or containers and placed back in the freezer. By initial freezing on a tray, this ensures the fruit does not stick together when frozen.
In addition to freezing mulberries can also be dried. Dried mulberries are intensely sweet and are a excellent additions to a granola mix.
The taste of mulberries ranges from very sweet for the white variety, to tart-sweet for the darker varieties. Mulberries can substitute blackberries or raspberries in recipes, but are generally sweeter and have a lower moisture content. They make excellent ices, fools and summer puddings, as well as jellies and jams or just eat raw with sugar and cream.
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.
Prepration - 30 mins
Cooking – 15-20 mins
Makes approx. 6 x 1lb jam jars
Mulberries are a low pectin fruit so you will need to add pectin to ensure the jam thickens and sets.
⦁ 900 grams mulberries, fresh or frozen
⦁ 1.35 kilograms granulated sugar
⦁ 120 milliliters fresh lemon juice
⦁ 1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
⦁ 1 sachet of pectin – follow the packet instructions for quantity to add
Steps to Make It
⦁ Wash the glass jars in hot soapy water, rinse and then place in the oven for 15-20 mins at 150°C to sterilise, or sterilise in boiling water
⦁ While the jars are sterilizing, put the mulberries, sugar, and lemon juice into a large, saucepan (Do not use aluminum or non-enameled cast iron as these can affect the flavour of your jam; stainless steel or enameled cast iron are fine.)
⦁ Bring the mixture to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching and to help the sugar dissolve.
⦁ Once the mixture has come to a full boil and the sugar is completely dissolved, add a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg.
⦁ Add the pectin. Boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.
⦁ Skim off any foam that may have formed on the surface of the jam.
⦁ Check the jam is at the setting stage. To check place a china saucer in the freezer for 10 minutes until it is cold. Remove from the freezer. Take a small quantity of the liquid jam and place on the cold saucer. If the jam is ready it should form a skin which wrinkle when you touch it. If it doesn’t form a skin, boil the jam on a high heat for a further 5 minutes stirring all the time and repeat the test.
⦁ Ladle the jam into the sterilised glass jars. Don’t fill to the very top. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean damp cloth or paper towel.
⦁ Screw on the lids tightly.
⦁ Allow to cool.
⦁ Your jam can be stored in a dark, cool place for up to 1 year.
Mulberries are a low pectin fruit, and the downside of this is that commercial pectin requires a lot of sugar to produce a gel. If you'd like to avoid using pectin, you can combine the mulberries with a high pectin fruit such as apples, pears, oranges, and gooseberries.
Mulberry Molasses (Dut Pekmez)
2kg mulberries + sugar (optional). Makes 2/3 jam jars of molasses
⦁ Wash the mulberries
⦁ Wash the glass jars in hot soapy water, rinse and then place in the oven for 15-20 mins at 150°C to sterilise, or sterilise in boiling water
⦁ While the jars are sterilizing, put the mulberries into a large, saucepan (preferably stainless steel or enameled cast iron) add water to just above the level of the fruit.
⦁ Bring the mixture to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
⦁ When the mulberries have changed colour (brown), pour the mulberry liquid through a sieve and retain.
⦁ Place the drained mulberries into a muslin bag/cloth and squeeze to release more liquid. Continue squeezing until the remaining mulberry mush is quite dry.
⦁ Re-heat the mulberry liquid until it boils again and foams and reduces in volume a little, you can continue to boil for a while to reduce the liquid volume and make it more concentrated.
⦁ Taste the molasses, it should be sweet, if you want it a little sweeter you can add a small quantity of sugar at this stage.
⦁ Pour the molasses into the sterilised glass jars. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean damp cloth or paper towel.
⦁ Screw on the lids tightly and turn upside down and allow to cool for a few hours.
⦁ Your molasses can be stored in a dark, cool place for up to 1 year. Once the jars are opened it should be kept in the fridge.
Source: Wild & Planted Trees of North Cyprus by Serkan İlseven; https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/mulberries/; https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/mulberries; https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/mulberries.html; https://www.thespruceeats.com/easy-mulberry-jam-1327843