Mulberry: The Chief Food Source of Silkworms, but It Can Benefit You as Well

Mulberry

Story at-a-glance -

  • Mulberry (Morus) is a large, deciduous tree that produces small fruits clumped together in a central axis, similar to blackberry or loganberry
  • Mulberry is primarily known as the main food source for silkworms, but did you know that it contains various nutrients and antioxidants that can also benefit your health?

By Dr. Mercola

Mulberry (Morus) is a large, deciduous tree that produces small fruits clumped together in a central axis, similar to blackberry or loganberry. It's estimated that there are over 100 different mulberry species, but only three are primarily grown due to their economical contributions and their benefits for human consumption:1

  • White mulberry (Morus alba): Native to eastern and central China.
  • Red or American mulberry (Morus rubra): Native to the eastern United States.
  • Black mulberry (Morus nigra): Native to western Asia.

To help you distinguish mulberry variants, remember that they are identified by the color of their leaves, flowers and buds — not by the color of the berries. It's possible for a white mulberry tree to produce different-colored berries, for example.2

The Potential Health Benefits of Mulberry

Mulberry is rich in nutrients and antioxidants that can help support your overall health. Research has found its potential for the following areas:

  • Digestive health: Mulberry contains 25 percent soluble fiber and 75 percent insoluble fiber. Both of these dietary fibers can help improve overall digestive health by promoting regular bowel movement and lowering your risk of stomach diseases.3
  • Blood circulation: The high iron levels of mulberry can help boost the production of red blood cells, improving the distribution of oxygen to every cell in your body.4
  • Blood vessel health: Mulberry can help keep your blood vessels healthy thanks to its resveratrol content. This antioxidant helps increase the production of nitric oxide, which allows your vessels to relax.5
  • Blood sugar control: Mulberry contains a special antioxidant called DNJ (1-deoxynojirimycin) that inhibits an enzyme in your gut that breaks down carbohydrates into sugar. Since it lowers the amount of sugar going into your system, it is considered beneficial for diabetics who want to control their condition.6
  • Liver health: According to one study, mulberry can help prevent the buildup of fatty deposits around your liver, which can lower your risk of various hepatic diseases.7

Uses of the Mulberry Tree

Aside from culinary applications, the other main use of mulberry is food for silkworms, making it an economically important plant for countries that heavily rely on silk production. In fact, it is the only food source of Bombyx mori L., the silkworm species that produces most of the world's silk.8

To create the silk, eggs are kept in an enclosed environment with a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which is gradually increased to 77 degrees until they hatch. Afterwards, the worms are fed with hand-picked and chopped mulberry leaves until they become fat and enter the cocoon stage.

From there, the silk that surrounds the cocoon is extracted by boiling the eggs. It's estimated that each cocoon can produce a filament between 600 to 900 meters long, which is twisted with five other filaments to create a single silk thread.9

How to Grow Mulberry in Your Garden

Growing mulberries is generally a simple affair because they are easy to transplant, tolerant to salt and can even help with erosion control. The important things to have are well-draining soil and full sun exposure. You also need a sizeable garden, because the trees can grow quite large. Depending on the species you'll plant, it can reach up to 30 feet (black mulberry), 70 feet (red mulberry) or 80 feet (white mulberry).10

To plant a mulberry tree, you will first need to stratify the seeds for 90 days, which can be difficult and time-consuming.11 An easier alternative is acquiring healthy stems 4 to 6 inches long from a mature mulberry tree and planting them in your garden.

Cut off the blooms, leaves and buds from the bottom half of the stems and dip the bottom 1 inch in natural rooting hormone. Plant the stems in the soil and cover them with a clear plastic container for protection.12 Keep the soil consistently moist and within three years, the trees should be fully mature.13

Mulberry Recipe: Goat Cheese, Avocado and Mulberry on Mixed Greens

You can take advantage of mulberry's creamy taste and texture to create a unique-tasting salad. This recipe, for example, contains a mixture of leafy greens, avocados and a homemade vinaigrette to produce a one-of-a-kind dish:14

Salad Ingredients:

  • Mixed greens of your choice
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • Handful of fresh mulberries
  • 1 organic avocado, cut into pieces
  • Grass fed goat cheese crumbles
  • Pine nuts

Ginger Grapefruit Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of your choice of organic jam
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Vinaigrette Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mix all ingredients except the oil until well-blended.
  2. Add the olive oil slowly while whisking, until everything is mixed together.

Salad Directions:

  1. Fill your salad bowl with the mixed greens until three-fourths of the way, then toss around the rest of the ingredients thoroughly.
  2. Drizzle the vinaigrette on top of the salad.

How to Make Mulberry Oil for Cleaning and Personal Care Products

The fruits harvested from mulberry produce a fragrant smell that can be used to improve the aroma of many homemade items, such as:15

Soaps

Lotion bars

Hand and body lotions

Body washes

Hand creams

Candles

Salt and sugar scrubs

Incense oils and sticks

Bath salts

Potpourri oils

To obtain the fragrance of mulberry, you will need to infuse its fruits with a carrier oil. Coconut oil is a great carrier oil because it has a very mild smell, plus offers its own health benefits.  Follow this procedure:16

  1. Place a hand towel at the bottom of your slow cooker to prevent heat from directly touching the jars, then fill the container half-full with water. Turn on the cooker to a "warm" setting.
  2. Gently rub the mulberries in your hands then fill up a mason jar with the fruits about one-third to one-half of the way. Cover the fruits with enough coconut oil and leave at least 1 inch of headspace from the cover, then stir the mixture to release air bubbles.
  3. Cover the jar then place it into the slow cooker. Allow it to infuse for eight to 12 hours on the lowest setting. Stir and shake the jar occasionally during the process.
  4. Allow the mixture to cool down, then strain the oil into a new jar.
  5. Label the final product accordingly.
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