How to Find and Eat Mulberries

Our mulberry trees just started dropping berries for us, and foraging for mulberries is my kid’s new favorite activity. He asks to go look for mulberries in the backyard approximately 1,000 times a day, and he mostly eats them as fast as I can wash them. Here’s how to identify mulberries plus some fun ways to eat them.

I know a lot of people hate mulberries, because they drop purple berries that stain onto their cars, driveways and sidewalks, but they’re such an abundant source of free fruit in the summer if you live in an area where they grow! Instead of cursing their staining powers, get foraging and celebrate those lovely, free berries this summer.

Where and When to Forage for Mulberries

Mulberries grow in plant hardiness zones four through eight. If you’re not sure what zone you live in, check out this map.

Mulberry season starts in late spring and goes until late August or early September, depending on where you live. Mulberries love warm weather and sunshine, so you’ll start seeing mulberries around the time that you start feeling like summer is coming.

How to Identify Mulberries

There are three common varieties of mulberries, and they’re each a little bit different but all edible. Here in Atlanta, we mostly see red mulberries. There are also white and black mulberries. Since red mulberries are my forte, they’re the ones I’m most comfortable identifying. You can find information on identifying other types of mulberry right here.

We find red mulberry trees by looking for the telltale purple stains from previously-dropped berries on the ground. Once you start looking, you’ll see them everywhere. We gather them from the ground or pluck them from branches, but you can also tie sheets to your trees, like a hammock, to catch the berries as they fall. This does double duty, because it keeps them from falling and staining, and you collect a ton of berries this way.

Like the children’s song suggests, mulberries can also grow on bushes. The California Rare Fruit Growers mulberry fact sheet says that black mulberries tend be the type that grows on bushes, but there is a red mulberry bush not far from my house. We compared the leaves and berries, and they’re just like the ones on the trees in our yard.

Once you spot the berries on the ground, you’ll want to make sure that they’re actually mulberries. Red mulberries look like smaller, skinnier blackberries. They’re about the size of a raspberry, and they can range from white to dark purple in color.

The leaves of a mulberry tree are a bit shiny and sort of shaped like maple leaves, but a little more heart-shaped. Sometimes, the same tree will also have heart-shaped leaves without the “lobes” that make them look like maple leaves. Here’s a picture of a lobed leaf from one of our trees:

How to Identify Mulberries

red mulberry leaf

And here’s an unlobed red mulberry leaf:

How to Identify Red Mulberries

unlobed red mulberry leaf

And here’s a weirdo leaf that’s mostly unlobed, but you can see that it’s not symmetrical—one side seems like it wants to be lobed, but it just can’t decide:

How to Identify Red Mulberries

red mulberry leaf

What they all have in common are the heart shape, the shininess, that vibrant green color and the ridges all along the border of the leaf.

Red mulberries start out light green, then turn white, then light pink, then dark purple. Here’s a photo of a cluster of berries on our tree:

How to Identify Mulberries

mulberries on the tree

From what I understand, mulberries don’t have any poisonous twins, but it’s always nice to be sure the berries you’re eating are what you think they are. If you have a tree that you suspect is a mulberry tree, you can always reach out to your local county extension office to confirm. Google “[your county name] extension office,” and you’ll be able to find their contact information. The one here in DeKalb County, Georgia had me email a few photos of the leaves and berries, and they identified the tree for me. It was really convenient!

How to Eat Mulberries

Technically, you can eat mulberries once they are white, but I think they’re best raw when they’re blushing light pink. At this stage, they’re a little bit sour, which I really enjoy. As they ripen, the sourness mellows.

For years, I’ve carefully removed the little bit of green stem on each mulberry when I’m cooking with them, but it turns out there’s no need to do this painstaking task. If the bit of stem is shorter than 1/8″, leave it be. When you cook them, the stems soften enough that you won’t notice them, and in recipes that call for pureed berries, the stems basically disappear into the mix.

It’s time for a little bit of real talk: I don’t find mulberries to be particularly delicious on their own. My son devours them by the handful, but I think that ripe mulberries kind of taste like bland blackberries. In recipes, though, they really are fabulous! These are some of the ways we’ve been eating our mulberries:

  • Mulberry Jam – I made this strawberry jam recipe (minus the thyme), but substituted mulberries for the strawberries, and it came out great! I like it on toast or in yogurt, and my kid stirs it into his oatmeal in the morning.
  • Mulberry Muffins – I made these the first year that we discovered our mulberry tree, and it’s a recipe I come back to over and over.
  • Mulberry Buckle – A buckle is sort of a mashup of cake and pie, and it’s delicious with fresh, summer mulberries.

And here are some of the recipes I’m looking at this year, where I think mulberries would really shine:

  • Lemon-Lavender Mulberry Grilled Cheese – Macadamia ricotta with fresh mulberries, bright lemon, and floral lavender? Yes, please!
  • Watermalon-Mulberry Popsicles – Watermelon is perfect for supplementing the sweetness that mulberries lack. They’d work great in place of blackberries in this recipe!
  • Mulberry Chia Jam – I think mulberries really shine the most in jam recipes, and they’d be great in this recipe! She calls for frozen blackberries, but you can substitute fresh mulberries. Everything goes into the blender, so no need to worry about whether they’ll soften enough.

Mulberries work well in almost any recipe that calls for blueberries or blackberries. Since they’re not as sweet, they tend to work best in sweeter recipes, like jams, cakes, pies, scones, etc.

All images by Becky Striepe.

131 comments

Denise S
Denise Sabout a month ago

One sprung up next to the creek by my house, so excited, they are really good! No one planted it, must be from bird droppings, I would think.

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Greta H
Past Member about a year ago

thank you

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Elisa F
Elisa F1 years ago

Awesome :) Thanks for sharing!

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Philippa P
Philippa Powers1 years ago

Thanks.

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Daniela M
Daniela M1 years ago

I read they taste tart but also very sweet at the same time.

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Daniela M
Daniela M1 years ago

Thanks so much for this. They look like HUGE blackberries. I've seen a lot of mulberry trees in permaculture gardens and was even thinking of perhaps planting one though it may grow too big for the space I have left. Would love to know what they taste like!

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

they look like blackberries

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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