Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Mulberries - in Bulgaria and in the UK


I've been travelling around Greece and Bulgaria for the past couple of months, helping out with projects of regeneration and sustainability. As always, along the way I've been checking out the local wild flora, horticulture and food culture for interesting new species, and local customs of growing or cooking plants that I may be able to learn from.

One species that I've been especially drawn to lately is the Mulberry - here is Bulgaria they appear to grow mostly Morus Alba - the White Mulberry, and less commonly Morus Nigra, or Black Mulberry. The two can be distinguished by the hairy underside of the leaves of the Black Mulberry, which make them less palatable than the pleasantly smooth leaves of the Morus Alba, which are great in salads!

As I write this my hands are stained black by their juice and my tummy full to the brim! In this village of Vishovgrad street after street are lined with beautiful old specimins, most of which have been pollarded - here in Bulgaria Mulberry trees can grow very large indeed! I came across this veteran pictured below in an abandoned village in one of the driest regions of Bulgaria in the Rhodope Mountains.
It is clearly a tree that feels very at home in dry regions...



I wonder how old this one could be? I'm sure it would have at least lived through Bulgaria's war for Independence against the Ottoman in the 19th century...

The locals here call the fruit Bobonka - derived from the same root as 'Bonbon' - little sweets hanging from the trees that are so abundant in quantity that grown ups here tend to leave the bulk of them for the kids to eat! I'm obviously still young at heart since I've been gorging myself on mouthful after mouthful of them for the past few days.

The fruits of Morus Alba can ripen white, pink or dark black, depending on the tree. Here the birds are simply overwhelmed with fruit, and would never take more than a fraction of the crop, but back in the UK I wonder if these white fruited varieties would be less tempting to our often over zealous feathered friends. It certainly works well with white currants, cherries and strawberries, so I will see if I can extract some white fruiting mulberry varieties to bring back to my nursery too.

In the UK we know that Morus Nigra fruits prolifically... So much so that they fell out of favor as street trees because the falling ripe fruits would stain the pavements underneath!

I wonder if any readers have experience in growing Morus Alba, or any of the hybrid mulberries in the UK? If you'd like to share any of your experiences in growing Mulberries in the UK, I'd be very interested to hear from you. Please do write in to the usual email address - symbiosisnursery@gmail.com

As well as having my eye on some Bulgarian strains, I will be propagating three different cultivars of Mulberry in my nursery, including the esteemed 'Illinois Everbearing' and 'Italian' - available by 2018.


1 comment:

  1. The post is so juicy, tasty and sweet. Thanks for sharing the information in detail. I must say you are lucky to have garden fresh fruits.

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