How to Harvest Mulberries

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How to Harvest Mulberries

Mulberry trees grow in all of the lower 48 states, except Nevada. If you don’t have a mulberry tree growing in your yard, you can bet there’s one growing in a friend’s yard or a neighborhood park. Just start asking around, and you’ll soon find mulberries you can pick. Here’s how to harvest mulberries, when you do. My family has been using this method for years. It requires no climbing, and will help you maximize your yield.

How to Harvest Mulberries: The Easy Way

Mulberry Tree
Mulberry Tree

Mulberry trees can get quite tall (over 30 feet), so you have to get a bit creative to get at the fruit. A common approach is to cover the ground with sheets or tarps, and then climb the tree to shake the branches, until all the ripe berries fall out.

You can certainly do it that way, but my husband came up with a method that’s easier, safer and requires no climbing.

What You’ll Need:

  • A tennis ball
  • 50 feet of rope
  • A drill
  • Old sheets or tarps (to use as a ground cover)
  • Buckets for collecting mulberries
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Mulberries are juicy and delicate, so if you decide to use sheets as a ground cover, be sure to use some that you don’t mind staining permanently. Your hands will get stained, too. Wear work gloves, if purple hands aren’t your thing.

What You Do:

Homemade Throw Weight and Line

Take 50 feet of rope. Tie a knot in the end of it. Then, drill a hole in the side of a tennis ball, and push the knot through the hole. You’ve essentially just made a homemade throw weight and line.

How to Shake a Mulberry Bush

To harvest mulberries, spread old sheets or tarps under the tree. Then, throw the ball up and over a branch.

Harvesting Mulberries With a Throw Weight and Line

Grab both ends of the rope, and shake.

  • Make sure no one is standing under the tree while you’re shaking, in case any dead wood falls out of the tree.

Lay Out Sheets to Catch Mulberries

Once all the ripe mulberries have fallen, gather them from your sheet or tarp. They’ll be dark purple with the occasional tinge of pink, if they’re ripe. Discard any that are bad or not yet ripe. Then, reposition your sheet or tarp, and move on to the next branch.

Since mulberries don’t all ripen at the same time, you’ll need to repeat this process several times throughout the season to maximize your harvest yield.

Tree Throw Weight and Line Kit

Update: My husband bought a tree throw weight and line kit at a yard sale a few years back, so that’s what we use now. Either set up will do the job, so use whichever you have access to.

When are Mulberries in Season?

Depending on where you live, mulberries are in season sometime between mid-June and August. Here in the South (zone 7a), June is mulberry season.

How to Tell When Mulberries are Ready to Pick

Most mulberries turn dark purple, almost black, when they’re ready to pick, but there are some varieties of white mulberry that turn completely white with purple seeds. If you see a bunch of squished berries lying on the ground under the tree, it’s time to start harvesting your mulberries.

Can You Pick Mulberries Off the Ground?

Mulberries naturally fall from the tree as they ripen, so you’re going to see lots of mulberries lying on the ground around the tree. While you may be tempted to pick them up, I don’t recommend it. Generally, these mulberries are going to be overripe, and if they’ve sat on the ground for any length of time, they may have started to ferment, or have insects in them.

While it’s a bit more work to harvest your mulberries directly from the tree, you’ll be rewarded with the freshest berries.

How to Store Mulberries

Mulberries have a short shelf life, so they’re best eaten within a couple days of harvest. Store your unwashed mulberries in the refrigerator, until you’re ready to use them.

To extend the life of your fresh-picked mulberries, freeze them, or use them to make something that you can can, dry or freeze to enjoy later.

Do You Need to Remove the Stems from Mulberries?

No. Mulberry stems are soft and edible, so if you don’t feel like removing the stem from all the mulberries you picked, you can just leave them on. I tend to remove the stems when I’m making a recipe that won’t be cooked, like freezer jam. And I leave them on when I’m making a recipe that calls for cooking and straining the berries. Since straining will eliminate the stems anyway, there’s absolutely no point in spending a bunch of time removing them by hand.

What Do Mulberries Taste Like?

Mulberries look similar to blackberries, but they taste a lot sweeter, and they don’t have any thorns. You can use them in any recipe that calls for raspberries or blackberries.

Mulberries - Closeup

Want to try your hand at foraging for mulberries? Here’s some information to help you identify mulberry trees in your community.

Mulberry Recipes

Now that you know how to harvest mulberries, you’re going to need some recipes to put your harvest to use. Try these.

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