In Praise of the Mighty Mulberry!

Mulberries-on-treeI admit it. I’m a mulberry freak. I love the things and I try to bring more and more people into the fold. When I say, “Come over to the dark side” I’m talking about those wonderful berries. And the trees are pretty common. Many people have mulberry trees on their property (or a neighbor’s) and don’t even know it! It’s tragic! Okay. Maybe not tragic but it’s a waste of some really great berries that are free for the picking. There are multiple health benefits to eating mulberries or drinking mulberry leaf tea. Below is a pretty extensive list of them but if that kind of thing bores you just skip to the next post which is all recipes! Mulberry leaves contain calcium, iron and zinc. Mulberries also contains the antioxidants ascorbic acid and beta carotene. Antioxidants inhibit cellular damage caused by free radicals, which get created during food digestion and smoke and radiation exposure. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by increased blood glucose levels. According to a study published in “The American Journal of Chinese Medicine” in 2012, mulberry lowers blood glucose due to its gallic acid content. In a study published in “Diabetes Care” in 2007, this effect was shown in Type 2 diabetes patients. In the study, everyone in a diabetes group and a healthy control group received a sucrose drink, but some also got mulberry extract, while the others got a placebo. Blood glucose was tested beforehand and two, three and four hours after sucrose consumption. The results showed that taking mulberry significantly curbed glucose spikes in the first two hours after consumption. The scientists concluded that mulberry could be useful both in the treatment of diabetes and in its prevention. In a study published in 2013 in “BioMed Research International,” triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels were lowered significantly in patients given 280 grams of mulberry leaf powder three times daily for three months. A study published in 2010 in the “Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition” found similar results after giving participants 12 milligrams of mulberry leaf extract three times daily for three months. These studies suggest that regular heavy doses of this herb may be required to see significant results in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. However, sipping some mulberry leaf tea regularly may help prevent high cholesterol. According to a study published in 2013 in the “Journal of Functional Foods,” mulberry leaf has been traditionally used to treat inflammation caused by chronic diseases, and the results of the study verify its anti-inflammatory effects. In vitro, scientists found mulberry leaf inhibits inflammatory agents in the body, cutting off the body’s inflammatory response. This effect was shown in rats in a study published in 2010 in “Phytotherapy Research.” Rats with induced paw edema were introduced to mulberry, which inhibited the formation of inflamed paw tissue. These studies suggest mulberry leaf tea could be used to help ease pain by reducing inflammation.

  • Delicious, fleshy, succulent mulberries are less in calories (just 43 calories per 100 g). They compose of health promoting phyto-nutrient compounds like polyphenol pigment antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
  • Mulberries have significantly high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals called anthocyanins. Scientific studies have shown that consumption of berries have potential health effects against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections.
  • The berries contain resveratrol, another polyphenol flavonoid antioxidant. Resveratrol protects against stroke risk by altering molecular mechanisms in the blood vessels; reducing their susceptibility to damage through reduced activity of angiotensin (a systemic hormone causing blood vessel constriction that would elevate blood pressure) but potentiating production of the vasodilator hormone, nitric oxide.
  • In addition, these berries are an excellent sources of vitamin-C (36.4 mg per 100, about 61% of RDI), which is also a powerful natural antioxidant. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents, counter inflammation and scavenge harmful free radicals.
  • Further, the berries also contain small amounts of vitamin A, and vitamin E, in addition to the above-mentioned antioxidants. Consumption of mulberry provides another group of health promoting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin, ß-carotene and a-carotene in small but notably significant amounts. Altogether, 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 processes.
  • Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid selectively concentrates into the retinal macula lutea, where it thought to provide antioxidant functions and protects the retina from the harmful ultraviolet rays through light-filtering actions.
  • Mulberries are an excellent source of iron, which is a rare feature among berries, contain 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.
  • They also 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. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
  • They are 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, protein, and fats.

Mulberries coFully-ripe-and-mostly-ripeme in three varieties; white, pink, and red. I’m going to stick to the red in this post because it’s the kind I use for jam, pie, and sauce. I also have a white mulberry tree but I’m sticking with the black for now. A word of warning; mulberries stain. They stain hands, feet, clothing, and everything else the juice touches. Don’t wear anything you want to keep stain free when picking or cooking with mulberries! The stains will (eventually) come off skin but be prepared to have purple fingers (and maybe feet) for at least a few days. An important thing to note about unripe mulberries: they are poisonous/hallucinogens.  The leaves, when dried, are edible and dried mulberry leaves have been used to increase weight gain in lambs and goats. The Chinese have eaten the berries and used the leaves for teas for centuries. Just stay away from white and mostly white berries. You’ll not only hallucinate but your tummy will never forgive you! Picking mulberries isn’t really picking. The ripe berries fall to the ground and are perfectly safe to pick up for use as long as they aren’t falling on sprayed grass or next to a roadway where they’re subjected to lots of exhaust. On of the easiest ways to gather mulberries is to spread a sheet or tarp on the ground beneath the tree and shake the branches. The ripe berries fall right off the branch like manna from heaven. But for jam you will want to add a few that are still red instead of the deep black color of the very ripe berries. Shoot for about 1/4 red berries in the total mix. The slightly under-ripe berries will help your jam set up properly. In the next post I will give you my recipe for Mulberry Jam and also for Green Leaf Mulberry Tea.