Mulberry trees are plentiful in the Midwest and eastern United States, where they grow wild and are popular in landscaping. A great source of vitamin C, vitamin K and iron, most varieties of berries are delicious when ripe.

KNOCK ’EM DOWN: When the berries are ready for harvest, they fall off at the slightest touch. For tall trees, use the longest stick you can find to knock the berries down. You can get creative with your stick and make a “fork” to grab the branch to shake it. Lay a large tarp over the underbrush under your first branch with a low spot in the middle, so that the berries will pool in the middle and not roll off the edges.

Reach up with your stick, hook a branch and shake vigorously. Slide the tarp under the next branches and repeat. Once you have a good collection of berries on the tarp, pick up the corners and gently roll the berries toward the middle. Work all the mulberries to one point on the tarp and roll them into the bucket. Be careful, as mulberries are delicate and will get smashed with rough handling. Keep in mind that they stain, which will wash off of skin but not out of clothing.

CLEAN ’EM UP: Once you get home, run water into a clean 5-gallon bucket and add the mulberries. When it reaches the top, slow the water to a trickle and let the debris float to the top, working your hands gently down through the water and berries. Pick off the leaves, twigs and bugs that come to the top. This will take some time. Some berries will float and some will sink, so agitate the ones at the bottom.

Once the berries are fairly clean, gently pour them into a colander, swish it in the water at the top of the bucket and pick out the remaining debris.

STORE OR USE ’EM: Store the cleaned berries in small containers so they don’t smash each other under their own weight. Use within a day or two, or fill zip-seal bags and freeze. The following are two of my favorite recipes.

Whole Wheat Mulberry Muffins:

• 1/2 cup butter
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 2 cups freshly ground whole-wheat flour
• 1/2 cup milk, half and half, or fruit juice
• 2 – 1/2 cups mulberries

DIRECTIONS: Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients separately, combining baking powder and salt into the flour. Gently fold flour, egg mixture and berries together, then spoon into a greased muffin tin. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

No-bake Mulberry Cheesecake:

• 1 prepared graham cracker crust
• 10 oz. cream cheese
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
• 1 cup (1/2 pt.) whipping cream
• 1 to 2 cups mulberries

DIRECTIONS: Cream the cream cheese with 1/2 cup of sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Set aside. Whip the cream. When soft peaks start to form, add sugar a little at a time and whip until firm. Using the mixer on low, add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and beat as little as possible until just combined (if you want a purple cheesecake, add 1/4 cup of the berries while mixing). Fold in the mulberries and spoon into the crust. Garnish with a few mulberries and chill before serving.

This article was originally published in the NEW PIONEER™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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