TRADER MULBERRY – Morus nigra
It’s not surprising to learn that the original Trader Mulberry tree brought from Germany by Bill Trader is still alive and well on the family farm in Oriska, North Dakota after more than a century. That is testimony to its tolerance to extremes of cold. The great grandaddy tree is now over 125 years old and reaches a height of 35 feet and is almost the same in width. Its longevity is attributable to its resistance to disease and insects, especially the spotted wing drosophila, or the common fruit fly that will ruin other fruits in the ripening stage. In brief, it is a fairly care-free, no-worry tree. In North Dakota, the fruits ripen over the months of July to early September in true everbearing fashion. By that time, the shiny, deep green, heart shaped leaves of summer turn to the bright yellow leaves of autumn. It is a fast-growing tree. A 2-year-old specimen will bear fruit in just 3 years.
It’s hard to resist grabbing a handful to eat fresh from the tree or to use them in imaginative desserts, drinks, or for easy freezing for whenever. Some folks process them to make wine, fruit juice, tea, jam, or canned foods, but they can also be dried and eaten as a snack. Or you can just let the birds enjoy them and add to your bird-watching pleasure. The black berries are 1 ½ “long, juicy, and tart like a wild blackberry. They have a distinctive aroma.
This variety will grow in USDA zones 3 to 7.
By the way, the mulberry is related to figs and breadfruit! Don’t ask how that is possible. The trees are traditionally grown for their leaves — mainly in Asia and North America — as they’re the only food that silkworms eat.