Steaming Mulberry Stems

It seems that last year’s intent to steam the bark off our mulberry stems for making paper did not amount to any action. There are some things that just don’t happen if all you plan is to do it when you get around to it.

So this year, I’ve chosen Saturday, November 15th, as the day we’ll be processing this year’s crop along with any stems we can find in storage from previous years. No excuses this time!

Anyone who is interested is invited to drop by to see, or even help with, this process.

The proposed schedule is as follows:

  • 10am: Start setup. Harvest this year’s crop of stems and gather previous year’s stems from storage
  • 11am: Get steamer up to heat while preparing the stems for steaming
  • noon: Steaming should be started by now, so lunch break
  • 1pm: Start stripping and cleaning the bark. I expect the fresh stems will be ready for stripping first
  • 5pm: Done cleanup

You’ll notice a lot of time between starting the stripping and finishing the cleanup. If we have a good crowd this should give plenty of time for talking about paper making, marbling, letterpress, or anything else that strikes our fancy.

That schedule is pretty flexible and is expected to drift a bit depending on weather and how much talking we do. The harvesting and steaming will be outside but the rest of the activities will be in our shop, out of the November chill.

The last time I did something like this was at the original Branson Banana Bash in November 2009. Then we were harvesting and steaming Mimi Aumann’s kozo stems. Things will be a bit different this time since we are using mulberry plants which, although related to kozo, are definitely a distinct species. This will be a bit of an experiment to see how mulberry behaves, and also how stored stems from previous years work.

We will have some light refreshments and snacks so if you think you might attend, e-mail or phone us (519-884-7123) so we know how much provisions we need. But even if you can’t call ahead, drop by anyway!


2 comments on “Steaming Mulberry Stems
  1. Your posts are fascinating. I’m a bit far away, across the bay from San Francisco but … I do have a mulberry tree which I pollard every other year. Since this is the first time I’ve heard about using mulberry (I’m a newbie) I would be interested in what part of the ‘stems’ you would be using. Since I have first and second year growth, they are all pretty ‘stemmy’. Can you suggest any links that would be suitable for a new paper maker who could definitely take up using mulberry?

    Best regards,

  2. kpmartin says:

    That these plants are, in fact, mulberry and not kozo, is part of the reason that this whole endeavour is a bit of an experiment. It remains to be seen how well the bark peels and (at a later date) how well it pulps.
    I cultivate the plants like kozo for papermaking: each year in late fall all that year’s growth is cut off leaving just a short knotty stump. This stump grows new stems over the next summer for the next fall harvest. Over the summer I try to keep suckers off the stems so there is no secondary branching, which makes for harder bark removal.
    Older growth is not used for papermaking.
    Because of this way of cultivating the plant, it would not be suitable for an ornamental plant and you would also never get any fruit from it (as the fruit forms on the previous year’s growth).

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