Mulberry Sorbet

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A ripe mulberry
Photo by Hank Shaw

Mulberries. Until recently, a mere mention this tree would get me going. I hate mulberry trees. They’ll conquer your yard and are nearly impossible to kill. Mulberries can send out suckers in all directions, sprouting new trees even if you chop down the main trunk. What’s worse, those that do fruit produce boring, low-acid fruit not worth eating.

Such was my belief for years. I had a mulberry problem in my yard when I lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and it was about that time when I got it into my head that the berries were no good. I can’t exactly remember why, other than I must have eaten some very, very ripe fruit.

One day, years back, I walked around a little park near my house. I’d been there before, and had not noticed much worth remembering; a few good oaks, but that was it. This time I heard starlings congregated in a corner of the park. They were on a tree.

It was a mulberry tree, and it was loaded with berries. What the hell, I thought. I was in mid-walk and it couldn’t hurt to pick a few for a trail snack.

Now there is this great episode of “The Simpsons” where they flash back to when Homer and the town drunk, Barney Gumble, were in high school. Barney did not drink at all then, and was set to attend Harvard University. Homer brought over some beer. Barney demurred. Finally, Homer convinces him to drink one. Barney’s eyes light up. He shouts, “Where have you been all my life?” and finishes the rest of the six-pack.

I felt like Barney. These mulberries weren’t at all insipid. No, they were tart and sweet and irresistible. And I am betting no one knows that this tree exists, tucked in a quiet corner of a little park.

Ever get one of those “I’ve been here before” moments? That’s what happened to me as I was eating those mulberries. Unlike most of my deja vu moments, however, I can remember the details of this one: When I was a boy, I used to play in the woods behind my elementary school in New Jersey, and right at the edge of those woods stood a mulberry tree. Put me there right now and I can walk you right to it, if the tree still lives.

Looking back I am sure lots of people knew this mulberry, but at the time it felt like the secret larder for me and my friends — in between “playing Army” or somesuch, we would gorge ourselves on mulberries, which I remember being ripe right as school was ending in late June.

The day after my discovery, I returned to the park with a plastic container and picked three cups of mulberries in about 10 minutes. I also saw that there would be more ripe in a few days. Mulberries don’t all ripen at once, and they ripen from a light crimson to a deep purple with reddish undertones. Mulberries are always redder than blackberries.

Lots of ripe mulberries
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Mulberry trees are easy to recognize: They are the only thing in North America that looks like a “blackberry tree.” The trees have a light-colored bark and lightly serrated leaves with prominent, light-green veins.

Unripe mulberries on the tree
Photo by Hank Shaw

There are several varieties of mulberry in the United States, including a native American mulberry. Colonists brought over the Chinese white mulberry centuries ago because we thought it might be a good idea to try to raise silkworms, which love these mulberries. Sadly, the worms all died. The trees did not. And by all accounts, the fruit of the white mulberry does indeed suck — no acid at all. I have never eaten one, however, so tell me if your experience is different.

(Like this recipe? I make a damn good gooseberry sorbet, too.)

As you might imagine, mulberries are super high in Vitamin C, reasonably good for iron, potassium and Vitamin K, plus they’ll give you a little fiber, too. Mulberries are also high in resveratrol, the substance present in red wine that experts say helps fight cancer. But who eats berries for the vitamins? We eat them because they taste good. Or at least I do.

My initial urge was to just eat these berries in a bowl, with cream. Berries and cream is my favorite breakfast in the world. But that wouldn’t make for much of a blog post, would it? So I thought about something to do with the berries. They seemed a little acidic — go figure, given my prejudicial thoughts about mulberries — for ice cream, so I decided on mulberry sorbet.

A close up of a piece of chocolate cake on a plate, with Mulberry
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I often spike my sorbets with some alcohol to improve the texture, so I added some homemade elderberry liqueur to the mix. It was really good.

Mulberries have a flavor all their own. Flavors and textures are tough for me to describe, but I’ll try: Mulberries are denser and a little chewier than blackberries, which they most resemble. They are not as tart as blackberries, and my main flavor impression is a kind of high sweetness, like an alto to blackberry’s baritone. If blackberries are a cabernet sauvignon, mulberries are a pinot noir.

There are lots of other things I could do besides mulberry sorbet. I probably could do a mulberry ice cream. A mulberry sauce for venison or hare would be excellent, too. Do you have a favorite use for mulberries?

A close up of a piece of chocolate cake on a plate, with Mulberry
5 from 6 votes

Mulberry or Blackberry Sorbet

This recipe makes a smooth, deep purple sorbet sexed up a bit by the addition of a little liqueur. I make this sorbet with wild mulberries from a tree near my house, but blackberries would be just as good, as would black raspberries. As for the liqueur, try to find cassis, which is made from black currants. Most liquor stores carry it. I happen to have homemade elderberry liqueur around in the house, however, so I used that instead. You also could use Port wine.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 cups mulberries or blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons cassis or Port

Instructions 

  • If you are using mulberries, pick off all the green stems from the berries.
  • Bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium heat. Let it simmer gently for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool a bit.
  • Meanwhile, Put the berries in a blender. Pour the syrup over them while it is warm but not hot. Buzz into a puree.
  • Push the berries through a fine-meshed sieve set over a bowl using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon; this removes a lot of the seeds and stems.
  • Pour the liquor into the bowl with the pureed berries and chill in the fridge for an hour or so.
  • Pour into your ice cream maker and follow its directions.

Nutrition

Calories: 140kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 11mg | Potassium: 170mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 32g | Vitamin A: 22IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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59 Comments

  1. I’m at 5000′ in central AZ, we have a large, old mulberry tree on our property that I’ve been harvesting from for a few years. We also have a friend from L.A. who takes home bags of the leaves to give away and sell. Apparently tea made from the leaves is good for various ailments.

  2. When we moved to our house 40 years ago, mulberry trees lined the street. Then it was paved, and most of the trees were taken down. The trees that remain are treated like pests and all the low hanging branches have been removed.

    I feel bad for those folk who don’t know they are denying themselves a real treat. Those berries make the best pie!

    I am cultivating them on my property so my grandkids can enjoy.

  3. We have white and black mulberry trees on our property and I’d argue that they taste almost exactly the same as the black ones. I will admit it was a little scary at first to put one in my mouth because they resemble larvae. 😉

  4. My husband spent at least two hours rigging up a capturing system for our mulberry tree yesterday. We are on the Big Island and our tree is producing like mad. This is the first year we have done more than pick a few as it is on a steep bank and the fall into our gulch and are lost to what ever wild creature desires them. Tonight I spent at least an hour picking through to clean them. I then juiced them and pulled out my iPad to fine some recipes! Eureka! I have found one. I will be awash in mulberries for a while so if you are in the neighborhood…..

  5. Here in South Africa the mulberries are just starting to ripen so now I have an icecream machine, the sorbet will be made as soon as there are enough. I usually make a mulberry shortcake or a crumble with them. A touch of lemon juice and or zest seems to bring out the full flavour of the berry.

  6. Here I’ve found more than I ever thought I would on Mulberries. It seems that most if not all of the posts so far are from folks in the eastern part of the US. I live near Sacramento, CA. While walking my dog this past late May I entered a vacant city owned field and came across a tree with all of these lovely berries; berries in all stages of maturity. I’m one to try fruits and berries as I walk and bike around. I was elated to find that no one else cared to pick from this tree, my guilt of picking the tree clean except for the higher up fruit (gotta leave some for the birds)soon dissipated. Over the next 3-4 weeks I must have picked 4 or 5 one gallon freezer bags of these lovely berries. Mulberries on my cereal,Mulberries in ice cream, Mulberry smoothies, Mulberry gift bags to my friends.
    I’m moving across town in a few months but plan to visit this vacant field next May and June.
    Next year with a new crop of Mulberries, I look forward to trying some of your recipes.

  7. I didn’t read through all of the comments so maybe someone already said this but I rather like white mulberries. It’s true they lack the complexity of the red but they still have a delicate sweet taste that I think makes a fine jam, especially with a little lemon zest added.

    Beautiful post though! Thinking about mulberry sorbet with brandy.

  8. Hi Hank-
    When my husband was deployed to Afghanistan he developed a deep love for the Mulberry fruit. The trees are abundant there, and he spent many a hot day enjoying a quick bit of respite and a few handfuls of berries under the shade of the Mulberry trees. When he came home he immediately started planting Mulberry trees on our CSA farm. We have 5 different varieties, including the white Mulberry. Contrary to popular opinion, we find the white mulberry fruit to be delicious. They are ultra-sweet, like tree grown sugar candies picked at full ripeness. They are not acidic, and maybe too sweet for some tastes, but I have a hard time believing anyone who tried one of our white mulberries would not fall in love. Maybe our hot dry climate in southern California has something to do with the flavor. It is a similar climate to Afghanistan, and may be just what the white Mulberry tree needs.

  9. Quote: “Mulberry trees are easy to recognize” – I have to laugh at this – as I live in NZ and we were recently on holiday in the USA. We don’t have mulberries here in NZ – I had heard of them but never seen them actually growing before. I remember seeing these trees where we were staying and saying to my wife – what are these trees – they kinda look like “blackberrry trees” – curiously, exactly as you have just described them. Never got to try the mulberries before we left to come home – but I HAVE just made the panna cotta you recommend here – and I’m still sitting here in the “after glow” – totally delicious. Thanks for a very entertaining and informative post. Brent M (NZ).

  10. Wow, just made the sorbet and it was awesome! You have a great writing style too, very fun to read.

    Thanks,
    Bean

  11. oi if u want one of those tree is ur yard u can wait till some of the mulberries drop to the ground pick them up and put them in a pot water and wait for them to grow if that doesnt work there should be some baby trees underneath the tree and take one of them home and it should be as fruitfull as the one in the park

  12. Hi Hank, I loved this post! Every year I eagerly anticipate the approach of ripe mulberries, the first crop that signals to me, the soon-to-be-onset of all the other berries I love to forage for and eat. I set aside an afternoon to pick my first pail of mulberries, make my grandmother’s pie crusts, and bake a delicious mulberry pie to welcome in the season.

    I’ve noticed that the absolute best mulberries are picked when it has been hot and dry for a few days. Too much rain results in a watered-down, barely flavorful, and hardly like-able bite. But if you get lucky and have a few days of hot dry weather, those mulberries should be out-of-this-world delicious!

    Truth be told, the only berry that I get more excited for than mulberries are wine berries. Do you have those in your neck of the woods?

  13. Last summer disaster hit. We lost all of our elderberry trees to verticillium. It was horrific. I love elderberries. And elderflowers. And being able to pick them a short walk from my front door.

    Since the evil of verticillium lurks in the soil for years, I don’t dare plant more elders. Thank god for mulberries! I found a local nursery that specializes in native species and they had lovely small trees for very reasonable prices. Our place is woody and wild and overgrown, so mulberries will fit right in. Thank you for recipes I can save until they’re large enough to get more than snacking harvests from.

  14. Morat! this is a lovely mulberry flavored mead…that indescribable flavor gives this ferment an almost nutty flavor. One of my favorite wines to make.

  15. @Dave I grew up and still am in Lancaster, PA, and I wholeheartedly concur. In my youth, long walks around fields to fishing or swimming holes were often powered by mulberries and raspberries found along the way. Sadly, the pond North of Lititz where we used to used to catch sunnies is drained, and the surrounding corn fields are now a mess of cookie cutter townhomes.
    One thing is for sure: there are good mulberries and terrible ones. As a kid, we got pretty good at remembering where the good ones could be found.

  16. Interesting how the mulberry/car theme comes up several times. When my husband and I were dating we used to pick and eat mulberries from an enormous tree that was in his neighborhood close to his house that had the misfortune to be in the corner of a parking lot of an apartment building. One day he came home and it was cut down because people had complained about their cars. We were outraged at the obvious lack of values.
    Mulberry wine?

  17. Hank,

    I’ll be in your neck of the woods this Saturday morning. I’ll have to find this park… Certainly the birds — nor Hank Shaw — got to them all.

    Bill

  18. I find the trick to a good panna cotta is having barely enough gelatine to get it to set. I’ve a recipe at home somewhere that gives me pretty good results. I like to use cheap disposable plastic cups as moulds, especially those with ribbing as it gives some visual appeal to when unmoulded.

    Here’s a post I did about a rather odd yet quite tasty recipe from Momofuku for panna cotta. https://xesla.ro/wordpress/cooking/corn-flakes-panna-cotta-with-candied-capt-crunch-and-avacado-puree/