For many, a large part of the attraction of growing fruit is not only the delicious produce, but the sense of history that comes with it. Plant a ‘Court Pendu Plat’ apple and you can enjoy biting into the very same fruit as the Romans who introduced it into the UK some 2000 years ago. Every ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ apple is a direct descendant of a single tree grown from a pip by Mary Ann Brailsford in her garden in Nottinghamshire in 1809.
The ‘Conference’ pear, even today a mainstay on the supermarket shelves, was so named as it won first prize at the National British Pear Conference in 1885. There is always the temptation of the latest product of extensive breeding programmes, promising record-breaking yields and disease-free growth – but more often than not we are drawn to the past and a connection with previous generations of gardeners and fruit growers.
There is one plant that has probably the richest history of all, intertwined with various empires and dynasties, expanding and contracting across the world – the mulberry tree. This month we will take a brief look at how this tree has shaped agriculture and trade over the past 4000 years, before moving on to look at how we can continue the story and grow this most prized of fruit in our own gardens today.
The mulberry genus, Morus, first emerged about 63 million years ago. Broadly speaking, there are three main types – red, white and black. The red mulberry is native to the United States, and while it is an excellent tree, producing sweet fruit, unfortunately, it does not seem to travel well and is hard to find and even harder to grow.
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