How Do We Compare Trees?
Are you searching for your ultimate tree? Do you want the highest yielding, easiest to grow, most multi-functional, resilient, long living, best tasting fruit, most nutritious fruit, best timber, not-too-tall tree with fruit has no pests or disease? The search for perfection for many trees, such as Pears, was at its height centuries ago. Our ancestors had done thousands of years of genetic selection. But then, in the industrial era, mankind adopted a bland diet where “75 percent of the world’s food was generated from only 12 plants and five animal species”.
Our Winner Is…
We like abundant tasty fruit from shady, low maintenance trees. Our favourite is the Mulberry (it is a shrub in cool climates). The branches are pliable and strong weaving material. In spring, we use the branches as barriers to stop the chicken digging up our seedlings. We also make hiding places for the chickens to escape from dogs or foxes during the day. It apparently has edible leaves, (although we haven’t been hungry enough yet to taste them). They make good fodder for poultry and cattle. The timber is useful and we use mulberry as fuel in our winter fires. The Mulberry tree is very tough. It can be coppiced or pollarded and happily conforms to the shape you desire. It is self-propagating in a mulched garden and forgiving of most vandal attacks in a city-scape.
A Yummy By-Product
Most Mulberry trees are not used for sericulture anymore (its primary farming role). The Mulberry was carefully genetically selected for over 5000 years to feed silkworms. The biggest advantage of this fruit for our site is that these fruits do not succumb to the destructive native fruit fly. Other wildlife, especially the water dragons, love eating mulberry and will climb the trees or patiently wait for the fruit to fall. Lucky, there is plenty to share. Be careful not to hang your washing overnight near these fruits because the droppings from flying foxes or birds will stain your clothes. Which brings us neatly into another function – Mulberry makes a fabulous natural fabric dye.
Conservationists warn against ‘Hardy’ food trees
If you live in an area close to fragile native forest, the Mulberry isn’t your ideal candidate because the birds will eat and poop the seeds and it could possibly displace some of your native trees. But if you live in the city and trees are in short supply there, you can enjoy your visits from the birds and know that any food you grow in the city takes pressure off existing native forests which are being felled to make way for farmland.
Prefer Amazing Taste or Amazing Packaging?
Mulberries are sweet and juicy. But why are they not in the shops? They have a big commercial flaw. Unlike some berries, the mulberry requires dexterity to harvest it and the fruits perish quickly. Today, most consumers choose to buy apples (often these have been stored for years). But we could simply stop and reach up to pick the fresh fruit that grows on the corner outside old Aunt Dolly’s house.
Multi-function: a Key Permaculture Principle
Each Element in the design should be used and positioned to perform a range of functions. Each plant in a permaculture design provides food, timber, mulch, shelter for the garden and house, soil conditioning, water harvesting and more.