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Strawberry Tree: Unedo Try This Fruit Once

Arbutus unedo

 Strawberry Tree Fruits. Fruits and photograph taken and eaten by the author.

Strawberry Tree Fruits. Fruits and photograph taken and eaten by the author.

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You rarely hear a human stand up and testify to the flavor of strawberry tree fruit.

“Mmmmmm MMMMMMMM! This berry tastes like mushed peaches and sand! Try one, Gwendolyn!”

Very Few

I’ve read various iterations of the above description many times before, however, being faced with the opportunity to try the berry for the first time recently, I had a more amiable interaction with the fruit.

If you were to take a mealy/out-of-season peach, sweeten it with a tiny bit of mango, and combine this mixture with raw cornmeal until you can form numerous 1-inch spheres. Boom! This would be as faithful an analog for the fresh fruit you are bound to find.

Commonly seen as an ornamental guest in the parks, roadsides, and apartment complexes of the Pacific Northwest, the Strawberry Tree, and its berries, have been used to create jams, jellies, and boozy hootches of various stripes the world over.

The soft red fruits plucked off of a bush on a brisk autumn day are soft like gummy candy. There is a strange allure about the berries that begs: “smoosh us together, weirdo!”

I don’t mind if I do, Strawberry Tree!

*pbbbbttttt

Welcome to the nitty-gritty, drunken-stumbly, and smushy-gushy world of Arbutus unedo.

 Image retrieved under Creative Commons licensure [5]

Image retrieved under Creative Commons licensure [5]

Description

Arbutus unedo is an attractively ornamental broad-leaved evergreen with glossy, oval/obovate, serrated, alternate leaves which are 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) in length. The urn shaped, opalescent white-to-pink flowers present in panicles and dangle like medallions. The soft and ripe fruits are globose (spherical) and covered in a rough/bright-red surface texturing.

 El Oso y el Madroño, or, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree, is landmark statue and meeting place in the city of Madrid, Spain. Image retrieved under Creative Commons licensure from  HERE .

El Oso y el Madroño, or, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree, is landmark statue and meeting place in the city of Madrid, Spain. Image retrieved under Creative Commons licensure from HERE.

Culinary Uses

In Italy, the berries were used to make wine and brandy [7]. The Portuguese make a fruit brandy from the strawberry tree called Aguardente de Medroñho and the Albanians call their version of Strawberry tree booze, Raki Kocimare [8]. The fruits can be eaten fresh or used to create highly esteemed jams. The fruit can also be used to make muffins, pies, and candy [8].

 Strawberry Tree Fruit. Photo taken by Kevin Healey.

Strawberry Tree Fruit. Photo taken by Kevin Healey.

Ethnobotany

The berries, known as lendj, are moderately esteemed among Algerian schoolchildren [4]. Libyan locals were known to use a decoction of the leaves and fresh fruits to treat disease of the kidneys [6].

Folk Remedies

The fruits are generally used for antiseptic, laxative, and diuretic (like seemingly every plant ever) properties [3]. The leaves are used for astringent, antiseptic, and diuretic properties as well as in folk treatments for diabetes and hypertension [3].

Music

Historical Note

The Strawberry Tree has appeared as a fixture on the official coat of arms for Madrid, Spain, since the 13th century.

 El Oso y el Madroño, or, the Bear and the Strawberry Tree is the official coat of arms of Madrid, Spain.

El Oso y el Madroño, or, the Bear and the Strawberry Tree is the official coat of arms of Madrid, Spain.

Literature

My Love's an Arbutus

By Alfred Perceval Graves

My love's an arbutus

By the borders of Lene,

So slender and shapely

In her girdle of green.

And I measure the pleasure

Of her eye's sapphire sheen

By the blue skies that sparkle

Through the soft branching screen.

But though ruddy the berry

And snowy the flower

That brighten together

The arbutus bower,

Perfuming and blooming

Through sunshine and shower,

Give me her bright lips

And her laugh's pearly dower.

Alas! fruit and blossom

Shall lie dead on the lea,

And Time's jealous fingers

Dim your young charms, Machree.

But unranging, unchanging,

You'll still cling to me,

Like the evergreen leaf

To the arbutus tree.

Nutrition

The fruits are abound with antioxidants and dietary fiber [4].

Recipes

I am planning on giving this jam recipe a whorl: Strawberry Tree Jam.

More Videos…

Outro

Thank you for visiting my site! I’m glad we got to learn about the Strawberry Tree together. Let me know about your experiences with this plant in the comments below the reference section. 

By Kevin Healey

References

[1] Sargeaunt, J. (1920). The trees, shrubs, and plants of Virgil. [New York: Longmans, Green and co.].

[2] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A., Ed. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://data.perseus.org/citations/urn:cts:latinLit:phi0978.phi001.perseus-eng1:15.28

[3] Fortalezas, S., Tavares, L., Pimpão, R., Tyagi, M., Pontes, V., Alves, P., . . . Santos, C. (2010). Antioxidant Properties and Neuroprotective Capacity of Strawberry Tree Fruit (Arbutus unedo). Nutrients, 2(2), 214-229. doi:10.3390/nu2020214

[4] Mihoub, F., & Gourchala, F. (2014). PREFERENCE, NEOPHOBIA AND NUTRITIONAL QUALITY OF A WILD FRUIT "LENDJ" (ARBUTUS UNEDO L.) FROM ALGERIA. International Journal of Applied Physical, and Biochemistry Research,4(3). Retrieved October 6, 2018.

[5] Curtis's botanical magazine. : Bentham-Moxon Trust. : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive. (1801, January 01). Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://archive.org/details/mobot31753002721212/page/n129?q=Arbutus unedo

[6] Natale, A. D., & Pollio, A. (2012). A forgotten collection: The Libyan ethnobotanical exhibits (1912-14) by A. Trotter at the Museum O. Comes at the University Federico II in Naples, Italy. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine,8(1), 4. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-8-4

[7] Pensig, O. (1902). Flore coloriee de poche: Du littoral méditerranéen de Gênes à Barcelone y compris la Corse ...Paris: Klincksieck.

[8] December 2016 Plant Profile: Arbutus unedo. (2016, December 01). Retrieved from https://botanicgardens.uw.edu/about/blog/2016/11/26/december-2016-plant-profile-arbutus-unedo/