Sunday, June 22, 2008

Foraging Friday (Sunday edition) - Mulberries!

It's mulberry season!

Pittsburgh is so full of mulberry trees, it is amazing. Though the really amazing thing is that no one knows about them. When you find a tree, it is likely to be full of ripe, unpicked berries, waiting just for you! They look just like blackberries, (but they are on a tree). The seeds aren't nearly as big as blackberries though (so don't get stuck in your teeth) and mulberries are even more sweet. When you come across an area of ground stained with purple berries, look up, because you've likely found a mulberry tree. There are lots along the river trail on the south side (between 18th street all the way to Hot Metal Bridge). If you are unsure about identifying them, please consult a guide book, or ask someone who knows. I am available to lead wild edible walks...if you and some friends want me to come and show you what is edible near you, just check out our services page. I love doing these walks, they are really lots of fun.

I just wrote all about the herbal uses of the mulberry tree in our June newsletter (just sent out). If you'd like to be added to our mailing list, click here.

Here is an excerpt:

In Chinese medicine, the mulberry (the actual berry), sang shen, is considered a blood and yin tonic - very nourishing and strengthening overall. It is used to treat dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), insomnia...and premature graying of the hair. Other parts of the plant are also used medicinally: The leaf - known in Chinese as sang ye - is used to treat cough with sore throat and fever, while the mulberry twig - sang zhi, is used to treat painful joints/arthritis, especially in the upper extremities. The bark, sang bai pi, is used to stop coughing and wheezing while also promoting urination to treat edema. Finally, the silkworm, whose only food is the mulberry tree, is also used as an herb in Chinese Medicine. Silk Worm, or jiang can, is used to treat seizures and facial paralysis, especially in children.

In Chinese Medicine, most herbs are used dried (versus fresh from the tree - mainly for the convenience of having herbs at your disposal year round) and in formulas, which are prescribed by an acupuncturist or herbalist and filled at an herbal pharmacy. You then cook the herbs into a strong tea called a decoction, and drink a cup twice a day (unless other specific instructions are called for.) When you have fresh mulberries on hand, there is nothing better than eating them right from the tree!

Also included in the newsletter was an article about the fire element (Heart and Small Intestines) and how to keep it in balance, and an article about goji berries.

Below is a picture of Dave and Ella picking mulberries from a tree in Polish Hill (taken two years ago! Time flies...)

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