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Mulberry: An ignored panacea

Mulberry: An ignored panacea

Mulberry (leaves) besides being the only source of food for the silkworm its fruit once used to be the staple food of Kashmiris. Gone down in the history in ‘Vale of Kashmir’ by Sir Walter Lawrence, mulberry has a centuries-old connection with Kashmir. Once considered a significant source of food for Kashmiris its journey from food to fodder, over the course of time, needs to be re-calibrated by acknowledging its services beyond just silk farming.

“It is a niyamah and being a fitness freak is something that costs you absolutely nothing just a little knowledge, with such immense health benefits, what else do you need,” says Saiqa from Rawalpora. She goes out for a morning to walk every day and finds herself surrounded by a scene of endless beauty and bounty, a grove of mulberry trees laden with berries in the colours red, black and white.

A slight shaking and the bounteous results from a tree which only ‘serves’. The economic perspective is known to all but the health benefits need to be illuminated for everyone.

“There is no maintenance required, It’s purely organic, no pesticides are used and the product tastes just ‘divine’, says a father picking the mulberries for his two daughters. People pull its branches down and have some with zero- hassle.” Like only lazy people or those ignorant of its benefits would mind self-picking and eating them”, says the father who is an engineer by profession. He eats a handful and takes home the remaining, preferably after it has rained when the fruit is free from any dust.

Planted by the government over wastelands it thrives in any climate. The ripe fruits falling off lend colour to the ground which acts as a canvas. “Imagine how much it can serve in the dying business,”, says a young boy, Salim from Sanatnagar.

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Its health benefits have been acknowledged worldwide but Kashmir has effectively sidelined it and views it as a source for money through silk alone. Its commercial spectrum of it can be broadened by including the fruit also serving various industries like medicine, food, dying etc. The fruit can be desiccated and consumed later which will make up for the small shelf-life of fresh fruit.

Its leaves can be used besides just fodder. The leaf consists of minerals, vitamins, dietary fibre, amino acids, phytosterols, flavonoids and other functional components, which act as an anti-diabetic drug. In countries like China, Korea and Japan the preparations from mulberry leaves are used as medicine for increasing the immunity of the human body, cough relief and lowering blood sugar and blood pressure. The high nutritional value of leaves is used as a functional food, mostly in the form of herbal tea, smoothie, yoghurt, salads, nutritional masala biscuits, capsules, dry powder, oil, and dietary supplement.

“The tree and its benefits both need to be cultivated as much as possible everywhere and for everyone” noted Shamin Gul, a gynaecologist by profession.” It is anti-diabetic, anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, cures neurological disorders, skin diseases, gastrointestinal problems and what not, it is essentially a cure-all,” she added.

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