Look hard enough, and you’ll find rarer white mulberry trees.
The five boroughs of New York are quite literally lined with mulberry trees, whose purple berries–something like blackberries in appearance–stain the city’s sidewalks and streets every year around this season. But New Yorkers are generally fearful of eating anything that grows wild in the city, and as I’ve foraged mulberries over the past few years, people often come up and say something like: “Don’t eat those! Are you crazy? They’re poisonous!”
You can harvest the delicious berries by picking, or by shanking them into a shower curtain.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The berries are mildly sweet, with seeds slightly smaller than those of raspberries and blackberries, though the flavor is similar. You can find the trees along the Hudson River in Manhattan, at various spots in Greenwich Village, around the southeastern corner of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and in maritime Bay Ridge, among other places.
This weekend, a crew of friends led by John Jay College/SUNY University Ph.D. candidate Lenny Lantsman harvested about a half-bushel of the berries at a location he hopes to keep secret in Brooklyn. Although the berries are usually picked from low-hanging branches, Lantsman read about a method used in Central Asia that involves shaking the trees into a cloth spread below, resulting in the ability to harvest berries from a larger proportion of the tree.
Harvesting mulberries in Bay Ridge
This year’s crop was particularly profuse, and within two hours, we harvested buckets.
At Lantsman’s berry preserve, there are several varieties of mulberries besides the regular purple ones, including spooky white mulberries, and ones that are white before ripening, and slightly pink afterward.
The berries are sweet and can be eaten raw, cooked into pies, or easily made into jam, which is just what we did.
One quart of mashed berries makes this much jam.
Follow me on Twitter — @robertsietsema