Monday, 13 June 2011

Mulberries Leaves and Yaprak Sarma

Mulberries are a wonderful fruit and very healthy.  They are also very maligned as the trees drop their fruit then the bugs come, the poor trees get cursed and hacked at just because people dont harvest this wonderful fruit.  What can you do with them other than just eating them straight off the tree? in my opinon that is the best way to have them but if that dosnt grab you they are very versitile.

My parents have a fairly sizeable property(farm)that have or had (dont know as I havent been there for years)several prolific producers.  They picked them and either ate them raw or my mother would stew them and pack them into the freezer to be eaten later.  That is the typical western approach to mulberries as we really dont know how to use them.  If you dont have a mulberry tree look around your area/neighbourhood and see who has and see if they wouldnt mind someone coming in to clean up the mess made by them as well.  Sometimes you can find empty lots of abandoned homes and farms with trees as well.  I am all for urban foraging and suggest you do the same as you never know what treasures you can find. Since coming to Turkey and living an eastern lifestyle I have realised that there are many other ways to enjoy them.

Typical Turkish children eating white mulberries
Two Turkish women boiling the fruit juice to make Pekmez

 When we lived in Adana one of the houses we lived in had a yard(garden, backyard) and it had a couple of mulberry trees one was white and the other was dark.  The white ones are good for eating raw and they are not too sweet.  I also discovered at the local bazaars that they sold the white mulberries dried! I dont know how they dry them as they are not sticky so they must do something to them.  I tried to dry some on my roof and it all became a sticky mess.  When we first came to Antep we went to the main park and I was interested to see men selling drinks on the street, after taking a closer look I realised it was mulberry juice they were selling and for only 50 kurus a cup.  Thick, sweet with a slight bite it was wonderful.  They say it is liquid penicillin, whenever I go to the city centre I make sure I buy a cup of mulberry juice.  I also discovered Pekmez  which is a thick syrup used in cooking or as a general tonic.  With the help of my family we harvested the black mulberry tree by everyone holding a sheet under the tree and my oldest son climbed the tree and shook the branches.  We then squeezed the mulberries through a cheesecloth to get the juice.  I then took the juice and boiled it until it became thick and syrupy.  Making it is very easy if you have a supply of fruit.  Pekmez is a syrup so stays fresh in the cupboard without further processing.

After my sucess with making Mulberry Pekmez I decided to make Mulberry wine.  I did the same thing, collected the fruit-squeezed to get the juice then let it sit in a container for a couple of months.  I tasted it drained out the dregs and let it sit again.  After 6 months it became a thick, sweet syrupy wine.  Absolutely delicous.  If I could find another 20 kilos of fruit I would make this wine again in a heartbeat.

So what has all this to do with Mulberry leaves? well Im getting to that.  The mulberry leaves are also edible.  You can use them to make yaprak dolma, dolmades and stuffed grape vine leaves.  All you have to do is to substitute the grape leaves for mulberry ones.  Mulberry leaves are furrier than grape leaves you say, yes they are but that all goes away when you boil them.  To prepare them for stuffing you need to blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water.  Drain.  Click on this link for the recipe to stuff the leaves.  You might notice a difference between the stuffed grape leaves you might be used to seeing in your local deli and these ones.  Turkish ones are usually thinner than their Greek counterparts.  I like both but do prefer the thinner ones.  For the Turks the thinner the better, if yours are not rolled tightly enough or are too fat expect to hear disparaging comments. Less is more again in this situation. The plate you see below was prepared by me not by a relative or neighbour.

Mixed plate of stuffed vine and mulberry leaves


  1. I love dolma! I don't think mulberry trees grow in my climate though, so I'll have to stick with grape leaves, when I can find them. ;) I left my three gigantic grape vines behind when we moved to this house, and the new ones are still itty-bitty. No homemade dolmades for me this year I guess. :(

  2. I've never heard of using the leaves before. As long as they're not like rhubarb leaves! I got some organic mulberry juice here in Canberra the other day and it was amazing! Yummm...

  3. Maybe you could do a drive by of your old place and see if they wouldnt mind sharing Michelle

    No they are not like rhubarb, now we know why goats love them so much. You should be drinking that mulberry juice as much as you can since it is a dark purple colour, very healthy.

  4. Interesting idea to use the leaves for dolmas! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Your welcome Joy, I thought it was interesting too and a good alternative if you dont access to a grape vine for the leaves. If you look at a mulberry tree you will notice how many leaves they have. They are abundant so you should be able to get quite a few meals from one tree.

  6. I recently discovered white mulberries for the first time in Jerusalem and just loved them! I never even knew white mulberries existed. Next year when they come back in season I will have to return here for all of your great ideas on what to do with them! (I added them to a sour cherry pie, which was good but didn't let them shine.)

  7. Hi Katherine, white mulberries here seem to be eaten as they are, dried or made into jam. I haent seen them in any other presentation here. White mulberry pie sounds good!

  8. i just read that white mulberry leaves (and the unripe fruit) can be mildly toxic - that you have to pick them in the spring before they open? is this true? how do you know if they are safe to cook with/eat? Toxicity: All parts of white mulberry, except for the ripe fruit, contain a milky sap (latex) that is toxic to humans. Although humans may consume ripe mulberry fruit, ingestion of unripe fruit can result in stomach upset, stimulation of the nervous system and hallucinations.