Acorns are a quintessential Michigan local food. A few barrels of acorns (Quercus spp.)
gathered before winter will bring you an abundance of nuts that are nutrient-dense, filled with complex carbohydrates, and are packed with plant proteins.

It takes effort to process the unpalatable, bitter nuts into a flavor-state that can be used in the kitchen, but that effort is well-worth it. Prepared acorn nutmeats have a flavor similar to the chestnut, and can be used in soups and pulverized into nut butter, as well as ground into flour for baking. The acorn has a special place in my home.

My father instilled in me the love for the oak tree and its acorns. My family gathers them in our yard, on walks, and friends drop them off by the bag-full. We shell acorns while watching Sunday college football games, or outside together in the park.

I am known also to host cocktail parties and haul out buckets of acorns to shell while friends catch up and mingle over drinks and cheese platters. I process enough nuts to make about 10-15 pounds of flour each fall. It is a nut that not only nourishes our bodies, but nourishes relationships and connectedness to the community around us.

Acorns start to fall in August, and can be readily be gathered off the ground well into the winter. Gather only those with firm, clean, and fresh-looking discs (the spot on top of the acorn where the cap was once affixed). Also discard any who’s cap appears dislodged, moldy, or simply “off.”

Make sure nuts with obvious insect infestation are discarded. Shelling acorns is done tediously by hand, with a hammer or pair of pliers, or by a hand-cranked nutcracker to process large batches.

Nutmeats will need to be soaked in water to remove the bitterness. Simmer the nutmeats in water at a 1:5 ratio and replace the water until the nutmeats are palatable and nutty-flavored.. To make flour from the acorns, dehydrate the nutmeats and then the dried nuts will need to be ground into flour. This can be done easily in a coffee grinder – simply toss a handful of dried nutmeats into the grinder and process it into a fine powder. Use immediately or freeze the remainder of the flour to extend its freshness.

Acorn Banana Bread

● 1 cup all-purpose (or gluten free) flour
● 1 cup processed acorn flour

● 1 TSP baking soda
● 1/4 TSP salt
● 1/2 cup butter
● 3/4 cup brown sugar
● 2 eggs, beaten
● 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas
● 1-2 TBSP cocoa powder, if desired


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed
    bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture, add a TBSP or two of cocoa powder, if desired.
  4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.
  6. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

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The dunes of my childhood where sassafras grows in abundance.

While on a trail run through the dunes of Hoffmaster State Park this summer I realized that there is no other smell reminiscent of my West Michigan lakeshore upbringing than sassafras. That aromatic, spicy rootbeer fragrance of the sassafras floats on the breeze in the dew of the morning or after a wet, damp rain. It is one of those smells that truly defines my life.

You can imagine my delight when forager friend Sam Thayer recommended me to host a Minneapolis-based film crew to learn all about sassafras for their “How To Make Everything: Rootbeer” segment! I enjoyed taking the crew through the dunes woods of my childhood stomping grounds to gather the sassafras roots for their project. Check out our final segment on sassafras HERE.

Though it is fall and the leaves are rapidly falling from the trees, it isn’t to late to gather a few saplings to make a late fall batch of rootbeer! Want to make your own local rootbeer? Read more…

A Mitten Gal’s Sassafras Rootbeer 

Sassafras albidumSassafras is common along trails and beach areas and makes a delightful tea and culinary spice. Sassafras is a small deciduous tree that grows to heights of up to 60 feet or more in optimum conditions. It commonly has mitten-shaped, three-lobed and un-lobed leaves. Its bark is a rough and reddish brown, the aromatic roots range in color from white to reddish brown. The roots of a small sapling can be gathered in the spring or fall. Wash, chop, and completely dry them.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a simple syrup with sassafras and other woodland herbs for a refreshing batch of rootbeer soda pop.


  • 1/2 cup chopped roots of sassafras**
  • 1/4 cup burdock root*
  • 1/4 cup sarsaparilla*
  • 1 tbsp dry hops*
  • 1tsp juniper berries*
  • 10 wintergreen leaves*
  • 1 tsp dry ginger root*
  • 1 tsp spicebush berries (optional)*
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups MICHIGAN maple syrup


  • Simmer herbs in a pot with 4 cups boiling water for 5 minutes, covered to retain volatile oils.
  • Strain
  • Stir in maple syrup, let cool
  • Add 1 part sassafras simple syrup mixture to 2 parts club soda and serve over ice or with vanilla ice cream
  • Sassafras simple syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks

*Some herbs can be gathered by hand from the wild, procured from your local health food store or ordered online. I like Mountain Rose Herbs as an online supplier for organic herbs. To learn more about sassafras or other herbs mentioned in this recipe? Check out my book, “Midwest Foraging.”

As an anthropologist, culture is a central theme to all aspects of my personal and professional life. As a writer, I believe in the power of a collective narrative and how we can shape it to drive societal change. I believe we are the storytellers that can help shift the story, and shift the world.

On the other side of Covid, what will our cultures “value” on the other side of this pandemic? How can the way in which we have had to re-organize and re-work to accomodate the constraints of Covid re-create organizational cultures – business, govt, education, arts, religion – that are more equitable?

Will our cultures prioritize transparency, shared accountability, and equitable access to power/resources/decision-making?

Will our cultures continue to empower economies that extract natural and human resources at a rate that exceeds the earth’s ability to replenish/restore, or will there be an intentional shift to regenerative, regional economies?

Will cultural narratives based on “fear” and “scarcity” be put to rest so we can see clearly that we live in a world of abundance? That we humans are the ones that cause that fear and scarcity, and its we humans that can end that with Covid?

We can re-write our future together and create a new narrative. Question is, will we?

#StorytellingForChange #IDEOU #Coach

Michigan Maple Fleur de Sel Caramels 

What’s more delicious that home-boiled maple syrup fresh from the sugar shack? A fleur de sel caramel made with said maple syrup, of course!

These classic French-style caramels are styled similarly to a Fleur de Sel caramel. The use of maple syrup in lieu of the commonly-used corn syrup will require close monitoring as the mixture reaches 248 degrees, but results in a much more balanced vanilla flavor that’s worth the effort managing the viscosity.



1 cup heavy cream

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature

1 teaspoon fleur de sel

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

Parchment paper, baking sheet or pan and a candy thermometer

1) Prepare pan with parchment, oil slightly – the caramel making process is a sticky one.

2) Bring cream, butter and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

3) Boil syrup,  sugar in a large saucepan, dissolving sugar and gentle stirring until syrup comes up to a boil.

3) Stir in cream, stir constantly and simmer until the candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees.

4) Pour caramel mixture into the prepared sheet, let cool.

5) Cut into strips or bite size candies, wrapping them in pieces of cut parchment, twisting ends.

6) Caramels store in a cool location for up to two weeks.



Want to learn more? Click HERE  to go to WZZM13 to learn how Maple Syrup is made or visit my other posts on the blog HERE to learn about the syruping process. For more on foraging wild foods and other wild edibles, check out my book, Midwest Foraging.

Midwest Foraging


One of my first aid kit must-haves is a rose-infused vinegar in a spray bottle – which is great for sun burns and even poison ivy rashes. A rose-infused vinegar is useful in the herbal apothecary for topical skin infections, abrasions, burns and rashes. The astringent nature of both the rose and the vinegar can help quell the redness and inflammation of affected skin.

To prepare this astringent first aid spray you will need:

2 cups apple cider vinegar
4 TBSP fresh or dry rose petals
Small canning jar
Small spray bottle

1) Combine the vinegar and rose petals and let extract for two weeks in the refrigerator.

2) Strain off the mixture and store in a jar in the refrigerator to use as needed for a wash or skin soak on burns.

3) The rose petal vinegar can be put into a spray bottle to easily mist sunburned skin or poison ivy rash for those hard to reach places.

In a pinch? No time to gather roses? Steep chamomile tea bags in vinegar for a few hours, then strain and add to a spray bottle. There are times the ingredients don’t need to be top shelf for top relief (but having top shelf for cocktails, that’s another matter).

 Order my newest book, “Midwest Medicinal Plants” to learn how to wildcraft this and other wild plants?

You know the scene. It’s 4 a.m. You wake up, chilled and feverish. In denial, you toss and turn, hoping that you haven’t caught that cold going around the office. Instead of ignoring the symptoms, reach for this homemade elderberry elixir.

Medical research has shown that taking an elderberry-based tincture within the first 48 hours of a virus’ onset can shorten the duration of symptoms by as much as four days.

Keep a stockpile of this syrup on hand for whenever illness strikes. It tastes way better than the cherry-flavored stuff, it’s all natural, and in under an hour you can make a batch large enough to keep you and your family healthy all winter long.

Want local elderberry syrup? Shop my apothecary for my foraged chaga elderberry blend.

Or if you’re too sick to make a bottle, there are store-bought versions like Urban Moonshine’s Herbal Immune Zoom that are quite nice, too.

DIY Elderberry Elixir

Makes 1 quart

1 cups dry or fresh elderberries**
2 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 cup 40 percent alcohol
1 cup raw local honey
1 quart size canning jar
Small bottles for dispensing

1. In a large saucepan, combine the water, elderberries, ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer for 20 minutes. Press and strain elderberry-ginger mixture into a quart-size canning jar. Stir in 1 cup honey and 1 cup alcohol to preserve the mixture. Shake well to mix. Divide into smaller containers, if you like. The elderberry elixir will keep in the refrigerator for 6 months.

2. At the first signs of a cold or flu, take 2 tablespoons of elderberry every hour for up to 5 days.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is abundant across North American, and its berries can be foraged from the wild across much of the United States. No time for foraging? Order dry elderberries online from reputable herbal sources like Mountain Rose Herbs, or choose to buy local from an herbalist in your area.

Want to wildcraft your own berries? Order my newest book, “Midwest Medicinal Plants” to learn how to ID and wildcraft the plant yourself!


Lisa M. Rose in a field of wildflowers in Millineum Park.
Gathering wild bee balm for my well-known Gypsy Tea.

Sometimes when you feel a cold or a flu coming on, it’s easy to brush it off and keep pushing ahead. But when that little voice tells you that your body has caught a virus, heed its warning!  Learning when and how to use popular herbal remedies can help you prevent from getting stuck at the corner of sick and miserable!


Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Plant medicines like elderberry can help shorten the lifespan of a virus — If you know when and how to use them! If you listen to your body’s call, and try preparations of elderberry elixir within the first 48 hours of the start of a virus, medical research shows that symptoms that come from colds and flus can be lessened by as much as 4 days. (1) Now, that doesn’t mean you can just chug elderberry elixir and NOT rest. Of course not. Resting is a crucial part to the body’s healing process.

But how does elderberry work? Elderberry is not only filled with antioxidants and flavonoids useful for the body, but it stimulates the body’s inflammation response against the virus. By triggering the production of cytokines – the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agents that regulate the body’s immune system – elderberry powers the immune system which then inhibits the virus’ ability to reproduce. (2)

Elderberry is most commonly prepared as a syrup of the fresh or dry berries. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) syrup is easy to make (visit my recipe online), but if you don’t have time, make a trip to your local health food shop to stock up, or better yet – support this local herbalist by stocking up with her elderberry elixir blends!! (Hint, hint) So at those first signs of illness – down that elderberry syrup in large tablespoon doses!



Gypsy Tea: Echinacea, Mints, Yarrow & Elderflower

While downing tablespoons of elderberry when I start to get sick, you will also find me making pots of my favorite tea traditionally known as Gypsy Tea- a formula that goes back generations. Gypsy Tea is a tea blend of aromatic mints (I prefer the wild bee balm, Monarda fistulosa), the bitter yarrow, and the relaxant elderflowers. I also add in echinacea for its additional immune boosting power, and sometimes garden herbs like sage and thyme for extra aromatics.

Gypsy Tea is also a great base in which to add honey and your elderberry elixir!To make your own Gypsy Tea, these herbs can be foraged from the wild, or you can procure your own herbs from a reputable forager or an online source like Mountain Rose Herbs.

Gypsy Tea Ingredients:

1 Part Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

2 Parts Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)

2 Parts Bee Balm (Monarda spp) or Peppermint

1 Part Echinacea (Echiancea spp)

Directions: Add herbal ingredients to a french press or directly to a pot of boiling water. Cover, let steep for 5 minutes and drink hot. And like Grandma always says, Put on a hat!  Cover the body, keep it warm, take to bed and REST. If you really are feeling crummy, consider making a large thermos of tea to keep hot by the bedside – this will help you to stay in bed and support the body’s immune system as it works on staying well.

Even herbalists get sick.

It’s easy to forget how to care for yourself once a virus settles in and your body begins to ache. Be prepared! Have on hand the ingredients you need to care for yourself allows your body to rest and fight off the virus. And remember to have a backup friend to rely on when you are at the corner of sick and miserable – even if it’s your golden retriever.

For more tips on making a plan for Cold & Flu season, click HERE.

A Few Other Good Links & Resources:

– Darcey Blue on Flu

– Todd Caldecott’s Ayurvedic approach to Colds & Flu 

–  7 Song’s Materia Medica for Colds & Flu

— Paul Bergner on Vitamin D


1)  “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.” J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.

2) “The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines” Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6


In the middle of a hot and steamy July, there’s nothing like a tall glass of refreshing lemonade. But here in the Midwest, lemons aren’t local… but guess what? You can make that pitcher of lemonade – or a copycat “lemonade” without the lemons while using the staghorn sumac berries instead!

Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina

“What,” you say? Lemonade without lemons??? Well, ok, so sumac “lemonade” would more appropriately be called a tea. But that’s besides the point… Infused in cold water overnight, the sumac berries of Rhus glabra and Rhus typhina make a great-tasting, refreshing sour and citrus-like beverage that is delicious on its own or simply sweetened with honey and garnished with lavender for an extra herbal flavor.

Common in hedgerows and at the edges of the field are the staghorn and smooth sumac (Rhus typhina and Rhus glabra respectively). Both sumacs are common native shrubs whose flower clusters ripen into deep red fruit clusters toward the end of July and into early September. For more tips on identifying sumac, get a copy of my book, Midwest Foraging to take with you into the fields! 


The berries – or drupes in botanical language – taste sour like lemonade. Use hand pruners to gather the drupes into a bucket, choosing the clusters that are most bright in color and most uniformly red. In the kitchen, separate the red and sour drupes from the stems – be warned there may be a scattering of small bugs as you sort the plants.


To prepare: Pack the drupes into a jar and cover them with cold water. Let them soak for a day or so in the fridge. Strain the liquid into a serving pitcher and voila – a delicious pink lemonade! Serve cold over ice and garnish with sprigs of lavender.

To see my TV segment on Staghorn Sumac Lemonade and easy tips for foraging with kids, visit WZZM13 Online: Staghorn Sumac.

For more on wild edibles, check out my book, Midwest Foraging.

Midwest Foraging

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Old Man Winter is upon us and rough lips, chapped cheeks and split cuticles are all signs that the dryness of winter months has gotten under our skin – literally.

I love winter.  As a runner and skier, the cold doesn’t keep me inside. BUT, the time outside in the dry cold can wreck havoc on my skin. Having a great skin-healing balm at the ready helps me enjoy the winter’s cold, as it protects my lips, cheeks, hands and feet from becoming overly dry!

Many products line the pharmacy shelves claiming to heal our dry skin and protect from chaffing and chapping. Conventional products often contain synthetic chemicals derived from petroleum, and while they may act like sealants on the skin, they do little to truly heal the dermis.

Fortunately the marketplace offers other options for skin care that are plant-based and more environmentally sound.


Botanicals for Skin Healing

As protective bases; plant-based oils like coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, and rose hip oils are all excellent choices and are versatile for all skin types. The healthy alternative to parrifin wax in skin care is beeswax. This helps create a protective barrier from the elements while letting the skin sweat and helps support bee-keepers. 

While perusing the skin care aisle, look for creams that contain plants like plantain, calendula, comfrey, chickweed. These plants are deep-tissue healers that can repair the cracks and splits in the skin.


Want to make your own skin-healing salve?

Do you go through a lot of balms and salves and want to make your own? Good news! You can easily make your own calendula skin healing balm in a big batch in your own kitchen. Create a batch of chapped cheek balm in your kitchen with just four ingredients: herbs, olive oil, and beeswax. Beeswax helps solidify the balm and works as a protective layer on the skin without leaving a greasy feeling.

Chapped Cheeks Calendula Balm

• 1oz dry calendula
• 8oz olive oil oil
• 1oz local beeswax
• Jars or containers

1) Infuse oil with the calendula. Infuse calendula in the oil in a double boiler and let simmer over low heat for 8 hours. This also can be done in a crock pot, taking care to not heat the oil past 130 degrees (lest it burns).
2) Strain the calendula herb material from the oil
3) Place infused calendula oil in a double boiler and heat until the beeswax melts. Adjust the consistency by adding more wax or oil, depending on your preference.
4) Remove from heat and pour into prepared tins or jars. Salves should be stored in a cool location.

Apply the balm before heading outside to protect the skin from harsh elements. If your skin feels sensitive in the shower, apply the balm before you rinse off. It may sound counter-intuitive to getting clean, but it will protect your skin from drying hot water and allow the botanicals to soak deep into the dermis for healing.

If you don’t have time to make your own, support local. While there are large-scale manufacturers making these botanical ointments, there’s a chance you live nearby a local herbalist that makes these skin creams from plants in your area.

I get great reviews on my Burdock & Rose Botanical Lip and Body Balm – which is made from all local plants that I wildcraft. I also really love Autumn Moon’s Plant Glamour in Detroit, but you can also check out to help locate an herbalist in your neck of the woods.

And remember – keep those balms handy to help you enjoy the cold. As my dad used to say, “There’s never the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing!” Protect your skin!

Super stoked for tonite’s Spring Celebration in honor of The Edible Schoolyard Project. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I worked there for the 2000-2001 school year (Look at those #TBT pics — just beginning my delicious journey of a career)!

Tonite’s event has a power-team at the helm – including chef Alice Waters, climate activist Jane Fonda, Josh Groban, chef Jose Andres- and together with many others, we are raising funds to expand regenerative #farming #education to kids and educators across the country.

Join in elevating the cause! Donate today!

#socialjustice #fairfood #localfood #healthykids #food #socialchange #socialdeterminantsofhealth #nonprofit #philanthropy #fundraising

If there was one good thing that emerged from 2020, herb and vegetable gardens are now part of our everyday lives. From small container gardens to full-scale urban mini-farms, many of us planted new – or expanded – our gardens and edible landscaping.

Haven’t yet jumped on this new trend? It isn’t too late to start!

Kitchen herbs and vegetables can be easily integrated into a current garden plan if you already do have a garden or yard.

Short on space? Herbs and veggies can be easily grown in containers on the patio and in the windowsill if you are an apartment dweller or lack growing space. And even when the snow’s soon to fall, many herbal containers can survive indoors with the proper care.

There are many places a beginning gardener can turn for growing herbal garden inspiration.

For eye-candy, perusing Instagram and Pinterest can get the creative juices flowing and even can get the most gun-shy gardener to try starting seeds indoors for springtime planting. Pinterest also is a great way to create both garden design boards and collect herbal recipes for your seasonal harvest!

These can also be a great starting place to learn the varieties of herbs, and maybe pick out a few seeds to start for spring transplants.

A few good catalog resources that offer a wide variety of hybrids, heirloom and non-GMO seeds include Johnny’s Select Seeds and Seeds of Change. One of my new favorites is Hudson Valley Seed Co – not only are they a small grower of the Great Lakes, they are doing amazing things with the art of their seed packets!

West Michigan is home to the largest horticulture industry in the country, boasting an abundance of wholesale and retail greenhouses. In the Greater Grand Rapids area there are many favorite greenhouses open in early spring where a gardener can stroll the greenhouses and shop for spring transplants, as well as gain expert advice from staff on growing tips.

Farmers markets are also sources of locally-grown herbs and vegetables, with most arriving as early as late April with transplants. Gardeners can peruse the aisles of the market for fresh fruits and vegetables while picking up herbs for their gardens. It’s a great way for the gardener to make that personal connection to the farmer that grows their food.

And once you get growing, let’s freshen up our menus with recipes that blend traditional herb flavors with new twists. So, grab your clippers and head into the garden to freshen up your culinary skills – and together let us make it a goal for 2021 to “remerge” with an entirely new portfolio of flavors and favorites.


137_AZ_Mulberry_1_Fruit_LRSI remember growing up in my mother’s garden: Tall stalks of corn, overgrown zucchini bushes, large heads of cabbages — all part of the bounty grown for our dinner table. My mother canned and made preserves from our seasonal bounty, but we also had wild foods as part of our seasonal harvests.

The wild grapes lining the backyard fence were turned into jellies and canned juice. Morel mushrooms in the spring were added to eggs and pasta. Feral apples were picked off the wild apple trees near our elementary school. Wild foods were also a part of my childhood.

As I think back, I remember more and more wild food memories. They don’t come to mind immediately, and perhaps that is because they just were a part of my childhood — nothing particularly fancy or romantic.

One wild food memory, though, stands out. It was the evening I made my first summer fruit pie in my college apartment.

It was a mulberry pie, with berries I gathered alone one hot, sweaty summer night on a sandy trail beachside near to my apartment after an evening run. The pie itself wouldn’t have won a medal at the state fair by any stretch— it was runny, the fruit filling not very thick, and the crust was lumpy. But you know what? To me, the pie was amazing. And perfect.  

The memory of it all embedded into my mind forever because it was such a sensual experience.


As my culinary abilities grew, and I found myself looking to the trees, hedges, weeds for “unloved” plants for my teas and meals at my table. Dandelions, the violets, the nettles, the burdock, and even the garlic mustard became my friends.

Overtime, I learned to sense and anticipate the subtle changes in the seasons, almost like a sixth sense. Those dry days in June? Better check on the roses and the elderflowers — one round of summer thunderstorms could decimate the delicate blooms that I so love to dry for tea.  And nuts falling in the green gulch next to my kitchen window? Better harvest those walnuts before the squirrels do.

I feel so empowered with this ability to “read”  the wild world around me. And now, my own children are cultivating a deep plant relationship as they work alongside me in the garden and accompany me on hikes in the woods and fields – even along the sidewalks – to gather wild foods.


Gathering Mulberries

The common mulberry (Morus spp.: Morus alba or Morus rubra) is one of the first berries of summer to harvest, as well as one of the  easiest berries to discover and gather for simple snacking or cooking, especially for the urban forager.

Compared to other summer fruits, the mulberry has a slightly unremarkable flavor — it isn’t very sweet, isn’t very tart, isn’t significantly jammy for the dark berry that it is. That said, perhaps it is the delight of encountering such an abundant berry – especially in the urban areas, where mulberry is a common ornamental. It is a nice, cooling berry to snack on while out on the trail or on a run as the summer warms up. Easy picking and easy snacking.

The mulberry is high in antioxidants, and can be gathered in large quantity, strained through a sieve and made into juice that can be then made into a cocktail syrup and flavored with other herbs like lemon balm, basil or even lemon verbena.

The mulberry harvest can be made into jam and fruit leather (again, running through a food mill to remove the more seedy bits and the fruit stemlets).  The mulberry can also be baked into a pie alone or mixed together with the first of the summer strawberries. If used alone, the fruit can be quite runny, so add in an appropriate thickener to make sure the pie is not too soupy.

The mulberry is often most noticed as a small tree, growing in heights of 25-30 feet (though it can grow to be as tall as 70!). Its young bark ranges from yellowish to orangish-brown, with scattered large white lenticels. Older bark is brown and ridged with an occasional glimpse of orange inner bark. If the roots should be unearth by erosion or contraction, they are distinctively orange.

The mulberry is abundant and a common plant. There’s not need to worry about future harvests, as the seeds are spread by the birds who also love the mulberry fruit. The mulberry also makes for an excellent edible landscape tree and fits well into a permaculture landscape design.

The white mulberry is a native of China, but is a common ornamental planting in gardens, courtyards, and municipal parks across the Midwest and is naturalized in some areas. The red mulberry is native and a common tree found at the edge of the woods, along trails, in partial sun and shade. Around summer solstice, the juicy fruits of the mulberry cause a nuisance of a mess wherever they fall; on the sidewalk and stoop, staining the pavement with their black juice.

The leaves of both species are alternate, simple, more or less heart-shaped and palmately veined with three main veins and rounded teeth along the edges. Both the white and red mulberry trees may have mitten-shaped leaves. The white mulberry leaves are dark and shiny on top and feel smooth. The red are not shiny, they feel rough. It’s fruits are longer, juicer and better tasting than the white.

The mulberry fruit is easy to gather.  Pick them by hand and place them into a bowl as the fruit is delicate and will not withstand being thrown into a bag or harvest basket. Note that the fruit will stain hands, bowl, clothing and can get stuck in the soles of your shoes. The berries do not have a long shelf life and should be eaten fresh or processed in the kitchen (removing stems, freezing), for later use as soon as possible.

Interested in learning more about wild plants as food and medicine? Take a look at my books, “Midwest Medicinal Plants,” and “Midwest Foraging” (Timber Press, OR) – both available on


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