Wild Edibles: Mulberries – get ’em before they’re gone!

Picking Mulberries in Toronto

Oh what to do for my first post I wondered as I walked…  I had been putting it off for a while when I noticed the stained sidewalk beneath my feet, under a Mulberry tree.  Every June/July each Mulberry tree drops thousands of berries, and few take notice of nature’s gift but for the blue stain upon the sidewalk or the berries stuck beneath their shoes.

While there are nearly a dozen varieties worldwide, the trees of interest here for the forager are the Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) and the Black Mulberry (Morus nigra).  The Red Mulberry is indigenous to eastern North America and is an endangered species due to regular hybridization with the other Mulberry varieties imported from Asia (mostly black and white Mulberry).  You will find both the Red and Black Mulberry in Toronto, staining our streets and filling the bellies and baskets of the local forager.  The fruit from both trees, when ripe, looks very much like a blackberry, although slightly longer, and not quite as sweet. Eat them out of hand, make into jam, bake into pies and muffins etc. but as with any food being introduced do not consume unless you can positively identify the plant and collect/consume only the ripe berries.

Here’s what the MNR has to say about them: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@species/documents/document/stdprod_070903.pdf

I know of at least 6 trees in town that I have come across in my travels.  The addresses of others are posted on urbantoronto.ca if you are interested, but I cannot confirm their accuracy.  Here are a couple of trees to get you started with on your next bike ride:

1 – Don Trail: If you’re heading south along the path, say from Eglinton, past (under) Overlea Blvd, take the trail to the left towards the junction with the Lower Don Recreational Trail.  This trail briefly takes you north east as you pass under Don Mills Rd (for the 1st time) on a slated wooden foot bridge.  This Mulberry tree hangs over the path half way up the wooden bridge.  If you have continued up the bridge and over the train tracks then you have gone a bit too far….

2 – Royal York Rd – on the west side of Royal York Rd, north of Dundas St W and about 100m south of Lambeth Rd.  This tree hangs over the sidewalk and provides easy pickins’

Ride safe and happy foraging!