The newest mulberry in my collection is variety ‘Skinner’, acquired from Josh Jamison. This is another of the mulberries varieties with extremely long fruits, a group I’ve been focusing on collecting.
We’re not sure what species ‘Skinner’ is, possibly Morus macroura or Morus wittiorum. Josh propagated it from what is probably the only mature tree of this species in the United States, in Homestead, Florida.
It was just a couple of months ago that I got my small ‘Skinner’ mulberry, but already the little plant has grown quite a bit in its 3-gallon pot , and has ripened some fruits, enough for me to sample them. The flavor is excellent, sweet & fruity, kind of a fig-raspberry taste. As mulberry trees grow larger, they generally make larger, more intensely-flavored fruits than the ones they made as a small plant, so it’s encouraging that these taste so good even on a small potted plant.
The long-fruited forms of mulberry are an exciting group that are not widely grown in the US, but unfortunately there’s a huge amount of confusion about them. I see people variously applying the names ‘Pakistan’, ‘Himalayan’, ‘Shahtoot’, and ‘Long Red’ to what are clearly different varieties under the same name.
Josh Jamison and I are trying to clear up this confusion as best we can. By sharing varieties and keeping them well-labelled so that we know we’re talking about the same cultivars, we’re comparing notes on growth characteristics, adaptability to different climate zones in Florida, productivity and especially flavor.
I consider one member of this group the most supremely delicious of all the mulberries I’ve eaten: variety ‘Himalayan’, which I got from the Fruit & Spice Park. (Because of the name confusion, when I see someone online talking about the characteristics of ‘Himalayan’, it’s hard to know if they actually have the same ‘Himalayan’ as I do. Maybe I should start calling the one I have ‘Himalayan FSP’.) I look forward to being able to compare well-grown ‘Skinner’ and ‘Himalayan FSP’ fruits, to figure out which is the most delicious mulberry of all. One difference is already apparent – I’ve never seen ‘Himalayan FSP’ make much fruit as a small plant in a container – it seems to want to grow into a full-size tree before it starts producing. ‘Skinner’ appears to be much more precocious in its fruiting.
Another couple things we’ll be evaluating ‘Skinner’ for is a pair of issues affecting many mulberry varieties in North and Central Florida: nematode sensitivity, and a tendency to early budbreak. Both of these characteristics vary considerably among cultivars. We can deal with nematode sensitivity by grafting onto resistant rootstocks, but if a variety breaks dormancy too early, it might be best suited to growing only in the southern part of the Florida peninsula.
Josh & I both plan to propagate ‘Skinner’ so that we can distribute it, but takes a little time to make that multiplication process happen, so it’ll likely be a couple years until plants are available.
Stay tuned for more reports on growth characteristics and availability of this promising variety.
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