Blackberries and mulberries are very similar fruits if all you have to judge them by are the berries themselves.
They look and taste quite similar, though they’re not exact replicas of each other, they could easily be substituted for the other without much noticeable difference.
The plants that these berries grow on, however, are very different.
So what’s the difference between a blackberry and a mulberry? Mulberries tend to be longer and more oval-shaped while blackberries tend to be shorter, rounder, and a little shinier. Both are tart, but mulberries typically have a stronger sweetness to match. Blackberries also grow on bushes, whereas mulberries grow on trees.
The main difference between mulberry and blackberry is that they grow on different plants. There are also some other, more subtle differences to their appearance, taste, texture, and nutritional profile.
In the following article, we’ll discuss all these similarities and differences, and much more. So read on!
What is a Blackberry?
A blackberry is, in fact, not a berry. It’s actually what’s called an aggregate fruit.
Technically a berry is a fruit that develops from a single ovary inside a single flower. Grapes, for example, are berries.
An aggregate fruit develops from multiple carpels – the part of the flower that holds the seed – from a single flower. These grow together to become an aggregate fruit, like a blackberry.
Blackberry Bush (Not a Tree!)
Most berries grow on bushes, not trees, though some tree-growing berries look remarkably similar to blackberries, confusing the issue.
If you think you see blackberries on a tree, you’ve probably found a mulberry tree, which we’ll talk about in more detail below.
Blackberries actually grow on bushes and they’re part of the Rubus family, which also includes roses, raspberries, and dewberries.
They grow on tall canes, which will grow long enough to eventually flop over.
This is how they reproduce, as roots will grow at the end of the cane when and where it touches the ground, creating the opportunity for a new bush to develop. Because of this rambling growth pattern, blackberry bushes are called brambles.
Blackberry bushes do have thorns, so if you find one, watch your fingers as you collect your treasure.
What Does a Blackberry Look Like?
Blackberries grow wild in many parts of North America, but if you’re going foraging, it’s very important that you’re able to identify your berries beyond a shadow of a doubt to make sure they’re safe to eat.
Luckily, anything that looks like a blackberry should be safe to eat, even if it turns out to be a lookalike.
You may also be wondering what the berries at your local supermarket are when the signs are misplaced or absent. Blackberries are delicious, but they look very similar to a few other popular berries out there.
One of the defining features of blackberries is that they will always have a white core, no matter how young or old the berry is.
Also, compared to other berries that are similar in appearance they tend to be slightly larger and much shinier. Black raspberries, for example, are easy to confuse for a blackberry, except that they’re very flat or matte in appearance.
What Do Blackberries Taste Like?
Blackberries are slightly tart, though they get sweeter as they ripen. The core brings some earthiness to the berry as well, imparting a very slightly woody flavor.
Part of the taste of berries involves texture. How you enjoy the flavor is always impacted by how you enjoy the mouthfeel.
Many berries, such as raspberries, for example, have hollow centers, making them very soft and easily crushed. Blackberries, however, have that solid core.
The center of a blackberry is edible, but it has the effect of making a berry that is a similar size as a raspberry into a much more substantial food item. It requires chewing, rather than simply melting in your mouth.
For some, this makes blackberries more enjoyable but for others it’s uncomfortable. Either way, if you ignore the texture, the flavor shines through.
Berries of all varieties are renowned for their impressive antioxidant content. There are few sources with more concentrated oxidation-fighting nutrition, and blackberries are no exception.
A 1-cup serving provides 50% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of Vitamin C, a nutrient known to fortify your immune system, help your body heal, and even improve iron absorption.
Vitamin C also reduces oxidative stress in your body, which is one of the presumed risk-factors leading to cancer. Blackberries are also high in Vitamin K, which helps protect your bones and encourages healthy blood clotting.
They’re also good sources of folate, which is especially important for expectant mothers, and minerals like manganese and copper.
Aside from the micronutrients, blackberries are a powerhouse in terms of macronutrients.
For as little as 62 calories you can consume more than 30% of your RDI of fiber. Fiber can help regulate blood sugar, feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, and help you feel full for longer.
Blackberries have also been shown to have unique antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can improve your oral care, fighting against gum disease and cavities.
What is a Mulberry?
Mulberries aren’t as common in North America as blackberries, raspberries, and many other species of berry. You won’t likely find them on a foraging weekend or growing wild at all.
For that reason, many people find them somewhat suspect. Are mulberries edible? Yes, mulberries are absolutely safe and tasty to eat.
They’re not actually berries, despite commonly being called such, even in this article. Mulberries are actually multiple or collective fruits.
This means each “berry” as we know it is actually formed from multiple different flowers that fuse together, rather than a single flower producing a single berry. Pineapple is another example of a multiple fruit.
Mulberry Bush? No, Mulberry Tree
As mentioned earlier in this article, only a few berries grow on trees. Mulberries are one of those berries (at least in name). The trees are native to Asia and Africa, though they’re now cultivated in other areas of the world as well.
They’re more closely related to figs and some larger fruits, such as breadfruit and Jackfruit, than they are to their lookalike friends, the blackberries.
Mulberry trees are mid-to-large-sized trees, growing up to 50 feet if not kept purposefully smaller and depending on the exact species. However, that’s pretty high for berry collecting, so most commercial producers keep them smaller.
Regardless of size, healthy Mulberry trees produce decent crops after only a few years as they’re very quick to grow.
Interestingly, some states have banned Mulberry trees, not because the berries are dangerous to eat, but because the male trees produce so much pollen that it can become an issue with air quality in populated areas.
Even more interesting, some varieties of Mulberry trees are fruitless. They’re grown for their ability to provide shade and, more importantly, feed silkworms. Fruitless mulberry trees are the only food silkworms eat.
What Does a Mulberry Look Like?
Mulberries look like very long raspberries when they’re young and not quite ripe.
When they’re fully mature, they darken and look more like an elongated blackberry. They’re about the same width as blackberries, but nearly twice as long.
Mulberries tend to be shinier than raspberries, but not as shiny as blackberries.
Mulberries also come in a few different kinds. A ‘Teas Weeping’ mulberry looks most similar to a blackberry and a ‘Black Beauty’ looks like an extra-large blackberry.
‘Pakistan Reds’ don’t get as dark and may look more like an over-ripe raspberry. Finally, there are also white mulberries which are, as you might guess, white.
One other way you can tell you have a mulberry and not a blackberry is that they are notorious for staining.
If you’ve squished a berry in your fingers and it’s nearly impossible to get the red juice out of your skin, you’ve probably found a mulberry.
What Do Mulberries Taste Like?
The type of mulberry you eat alters the flavor of the berry a bit.
Large black mulberries are the juiciest and sweetest of this berry family. They have a hidden tart quality about them that reminds some people of grapefruits, but it’s mild and contrasted beautifully by the natural sweetness.
The lighter the berry, the less tartness they have, but also the flatter the flavor becomes.
The tang of a perfectly ripe black mulberry is perfectly balanced to create a full flavor that lasts, whereas a white mulberry is sweet but almost disappointingly bland.
Benefits of Mulberries
Even though mulberry trees are traditional grown for their leaves, that doesn’t mean the berries themselves don’t have a multitude of benefits.
Similar to blackberries, mulberries have only about 60 calories in a 1 cup serving. You can enjoy a lot of berries before you have to start worrying about your diet.
They don’t have as much fiber as blackberries, giving you only 10% of your RDI in that serving size, but they do have even more Vitamin C. You will get 85% of daily Vitamin C needs just by snacking on some mulberries.
Mulberries also have more Iron and Calcium than blackberries, which is a great addition to any diet, but is especially influential to purely plant-based diets.
Like blackberries, mulberries are a potent source of antioxidants, being rich in anthocyanins – found in dark-hued fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins have been shown to improve heart health and blood cholesterol levels.
Other antioxidants present in mulberries are thought to be protective against chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Benefits of Mulberry Leaves
Mulberry trees were originally cultivated mainly for their leaves, as it’s the only food that silkworms are willing to eat. The leaves have beneficial uses for humans, as well.
All the vitamins and antioxidants that can be found in the berries can also be found in the leaves.
The leaves aren’t as much of a treat to eat, however; so they’re more commonly used for making teas, tinctures, or condensed into supplement form.
Mulberry leaves do contain latex, which is a common allergen, so be careful when handling them if you are highly allergic.
Mulberries Vs Blackberries: Summary
Here’s a quick review of some of the key differences between these similar-looking fruits:
- Blackberries grow on a thorny, bramble bush. Mulberries grow on fast-growing trees.
- Mulberries are from the Morus genus and Moraceae family, whereas blackberries are from the Rubus genus and Rosaceae family.
- Blackberries are small and almost perfectly round, approximately 1” in length and width, compared to the long, oval shape of a mulberry, which can be 2” or more in length.
- Mulberries are a well-balanced blend of sweet and tart, and blackberries have more earthiness to their sweetly tart flavor.
- Blackberries give off a floral, slightly woody aroma. Mulberries smell fruity and sweet.
Blackberries Vs Mulberries: Nutrition [Chart]
|Per 1 Cup, raw
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Are Blackberries Good For Dogs?
Blackberries are safe, and even nutritious, for dogs. They’re low in calories and relatively low in sugar, for a fruit, but they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
All these benefits are just as good for your 4-legged furry friend as they are for you, so don’t hesitate to share your bounty.
One note of caution, however, is to use blackberries only as treats and don’t feed them to your dog in large quantities.
As with any fruit, too many in a stomach that isn’t used to so much fiber and rich vitamins all at once can backfire, causing indigestion. Remember, your dog’s stomach is much smaller than yours, so be watchful.
However, it’s always a good idea to check with your vet when it comes to feeding your pooch ‘human food’. The safety of man’s best friend deserves the extra care and attention.
Are Mulberries Poisonous to Dogs?
Unless your dog has a specific allergy to mulberries, no they are not poisonous or toxic and can generally be eaten safely.
As with blackberries, you should moderate how many berries your dog eats in one sitting to be sure the fiber doesn’t cause digestive issues.
Before feeding your dog any berry, be absolutely and completely certain that what you think is a mulberry is actually a mulberry.
There are many berries that are toxic to animals, specifically dogs, so you wouldn’t want to accidentally allow your pup to eat an unidentified berry.
Other berries have edible and toxic versions that look very similar, like the juniper berry. It’s important to be able to distinguish between them if you’re foraging for berries yourself.
Luckily, any berry that is similar in appearance to a mulberry should be safe for your dog to eat.
One more consideration to keep in mind is that neither dogs nor humans should eat unripe berries in any significant quantity. While one or two won’t harm anyone, too many can cause digestive discomfort quickly.
Again, we recommend checking with a vet when it comes to regular treats for your pet, just in case. Although you probably don’t need to worry if Fido stole a mulberry out of your bowl, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How Do You Clean Mulberries?
Mulberries definitely should be washed before you eat, cook or freeze them but, luckily, they’re easy to wash.
To wash them properly, place your berries in a colander and run cool water over them. Use your fingers to gently rotate the berries, making sure they’re all well rinsed from all angles.
If you picked your mulberries directly from the tree, this should be sufficient.
If your mulberries are commercially packaged, you may want to take an added step to protect yourself against salmonella, E. coli, and agricultural chemicals by using a natural fruit and vegetable wash spray.
They’re made with natural ingredients like coconut and citrus oil that remove residue of nearly any type from your berries.