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The mulberries belong to the Moraceae family, genus Morus.
The White mulberry (Morus alba L.) is a species native to central and eastern Asia.
Tree up to 15 m tall, it was imported to Europe with the silkworm that is greedy for its leaves.
Until the mid-1900s it had a huge spread; then, with the emergence of synthetic fibers, the breeding of the silkworm disappeared and with it also the white mulberry.
Dense foliage, with dark green leaves and shiny above, lighter below.
The flowers are unisexual (monoecious plant), rarely bisexual, the male ones are arranged in cylindrical spikes of 2-4 cm, pedunculate, the female ones in ovoid glomeruli. they are born near the leaf in April. The fruit is fleshy yellowish white with a sweetish taste (with an acidic tip), ripens in June July.
The Black mulberry (Morus nigra L.) and very similar to the previous species.
Originally from Asia Minor and Iran, introduced to Europe probably in the sixteenth century. It has smaller leaves and produces black-violet and tastier fruits.
Mulberry fruits and leaf - Morus nigra L. (photo www.wsl.ch)
Currently it is very little used as a fruit plant due to the unpleasant taste (sweetish with a hint of acid). The fruits were considered laxatives. Due to the high sugar content (22%), various Asian populations used them as sweeteners, both fresh and dry, reduced in flour. For fermentation it is possible to obtain an alcoholic drink; wood was used to make tools and small inlay work. The use of white mulberry was linked to the breeding of the silkworm.
Jams, jellies, jams, sorbets, desserts, grappa, in alcohol. The use of fruit in small fruit salad improves its flavor and aroma. Flavoring and coloring for ice cream, it gives a blue-violet color.
In Central Italy and Sicily M. nigra is bred for local consumption.
Lymphatic leaf has antibiotic properties. The pulp is used in cosmetics for soothing masks of dry skin, the juice is used in moisturizing lotions.
Medicinal properties of fruits, leaves, roots and bark: expectorant, purifying, laxative, refreshing and tonic; in the not too distant past they were indicated to soothe aphtha, angina, asthenia, constipation and stomatitis.
The most decorative varieties are also those most appreciated for the flavor of the fruits.
Larve di Bombix mori (Agricultural Technical Institute of Florence) (photo website)