BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Strawberries aren’t the only popular type of berry available in the Philippines. Mulberries, locally known as moras, are also abundantly grown throughout the country. Traditionally, these trees are grown in Asia and North America for their leaves, which are the only things that cultivated silkworms eat.
But since the trees carry colorful berries that come in black, white, and red, farmers also began growing mulberries for their fruits which can be eaten raw, cooked, or transformed into other products such as wine, fruit juice, tea, or jam.
Merlita’s Family Farm is one farm that grows mulberries for this particular reason.
The property where the farm is currently located was meant to be the site of a shelter for abandoned children and the elderly. But due to insufficient funds, the Barbudo family decided to shift the property’s purpose into a place where they can grow food.
Presently, Merlita’s Family Farm is planted with different fruit-bearing trees like guyabano, mulberries, pomelo, papaya, and mulberries.
According to Edmer Barbudo, an administrator at the Beatitudes Technological and Theological College Foundation in Cavite, mulberries are the most prolific crop on their farm. Recently, they harvested a hefty amount of berries from their tree which still hasn’t finished fruiting.
Barbudo shared that the fruits from the following harvest will be used to make jam and wine which will help augment the farm’s income.
When growing mulberries, especially for beginners, Barbudo says that the first thing to remember is to not stress yourself out. Mulberry trees are known to be tough and low-maintenance, making them ideal for novice farmers or gardeners. They thrive in warm, sunny spots and perform otherwise in really cold areas.
“Nature will always find a way to grow and flourish. There is no need to overcomplicate the process and mulberry trees are very resilient,” he said.
Another thing to consider before the actual planting process is one’s available space. Mulberries can be grown either as bushes or trees, and some varieties of the latter can achieve a height of 10 meters or more but some grow for half the size.
For a family like Barbudo’s, a single mulberry tree is enough to provide for them. But for more fruits, planting more trees is ideal.
To grow mulberries from cuttings as Barbudo did, it’s best to put them in a pot. After two to three months, transfer it to a location where there is loose, well-draining soil and ample sunlight.
Mulberry trees also need to be watered in dry weather to prevent their fruit from dropping before it’s ripe and having a dry taste.
Other than these requirements for their growth, mulberry trees also need pruning when they mature. Mulberries grown from seeds can take a decade or so to bear fruit, but growing from cuttings or seedlings can take around two to three years.
“A fully grown mulberry tree needs pruning when it is dormant. Doing this will allow the trees to start producing fruits again,” Barbudo said.
He added that mulberries tend to drop their leaves, especially during summer. But he says there is no need to panic since this is normal and its leaves will grow again during the rainy season.
Health benefits of mulberries
Besides being a good ingredient to use when making jam, wine, and other related products because of their sweet, tart taste, mulberries also offer several health benefits when consumed.
They’re a good source of iron and vitamin C, along with decent amounts of potassium as well as vitamins E and K. It has also been linked to lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and cancer risk because of their fiber and carbohydrate content.
Mulberries are among the many fruits that grow in abundance in the Philippines. But if grown and harnessed properly, just like the Barbudo family of Merlita’s Family Farm did, it can be a good source of healthy food and additional income.
For more information, visit Merlita’s Family Farm on Facebook.