The Mulberry tree (Morus nigra) has been cultivated in England

since the middle of the sixteenth century, being first planted at Sion

house in 1548. It is now grown commonly in the garden, orchard, or

paddock, where its well-known rich syrupy fruit ripens in

September. This fruit, abounding with a luscious juice of regal hue,

is used in some districts, particularly in Devonshire, for mixing with

cider during [357] ferm
ntation, giving to the beverage a pleasant

taste, and a deep red colour. The juice, made into syrup, is curative

of sore throats, especially of the putrid sort, if it be used in

gargles; also of thrush in the mouth, if applied thereto; and the

ripe fruit is gently laxative.

Horace recommends that Mulberries be gathered before sunset:--

AEstatis peraget qui nigris prandia moris

Finiet ante gravem quae legerit arbore solem.

The generic name, Morus, is derived from the Celtic mor,

black. In Germany (at Iserlohn), mothers, in order to deter their

children from eating Mulberries, tell them the devil requires the

juicy berries for the purpose of blacking his boots. This fruit was

fabled to have become changed from white to a deep red through

absorbing the blood of Pyramus and Thisbe, who were slain beneath

its shade.

It is thought by some that morus has been derived from the Latin

word mora, delay, as shown in a tardy expansion of the buds.

Because cautious not to burst into leaf until the last frost of spring

is over, the Mulberry tree, as the wisest of its fellows, was dedicated

by the ancients to Minerva, and the story of Pyramus and Thisbe

owed its origin to the white and black fruited varieties:--

The Mulberry found its former whiteness fled,

And, ripening, saddened into dusky red.

Shakespeare's famous Mulberry tree, planted in 1609, was of the black

species. It was recklessly cut down at New Place, Stratford-on-Avon,

in 1759. Ten years afterwards, when the freedom of the city

was presented to Garrick, the document was enclosed in a

casket made from the wood of this tree. Likewise a cup was [358]

wrought therefrom, and at the Shakespeare Jubilee, Garrick, holding

the cup aloft, recited the following lines, composed by himself for

the occasion:--

Behold this fair goblet: 'twas carved from the tree

Which, oh, my sweet Shakespeare, was planted by thee!

As a relic I kiss it, and bow at thy shrine,

What comes from thy hand must be ever divine.

All shall yield to the Mulberry tree;

Bend to the blest Mulberry:

Matchless was he who planted thee,

And thou, like him, immortal shall be.

A slip of it was grown by Garrick in his garden at Hampton Court.

The leaves of the Mulberry tree are known to furnish excellent food

for silk worms.

Botanically, each fruit is a collection of berries on a common pulpy

receptacle, being, like the Strawberry, especially wholesome for

those who are liable to heartburn, because it does not undergo

acetous fermentation in the stomach. In France Mulberries are

served at the beginning of a meal. Among the Romans the fruit was

famous for maladies of the throat and windpipe.

The tree does not bear until it is somewhat advanced in age. It

contains in every part a milky juice, which will coagulate into a sort

of Indian rubber, and this has been thought to give tenacity to the

filament spun by the silkworm.

The juice of Mulberries contains malic and citric acids, with

glucose, pectin, and gum. The bark of the root has been given to

expel tapeworm; and the fruit is remarkable for its large quantity of

sugar, being excelled in this respect only by the fig, the grape, and

the cherry.

We are told in Ivanhoe that the Saxons made a favourite drink,

Morat, from the juice of Mulberries [359] with honey. During the

thirteenth century these berries were sometimes called pynes.

In the memorable narrative of the Old Testament, 2 Samuel, v.,

24, When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the

Mulberry trees, the word used (bekhaim) has been mistranslated,

really intending the Aspen (Populus tremula).