Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Strawberry Tree

Arbutus is a genus of 11 accepted species of flowering plants in the family Ericaceae, native to warm temperate regions of the Mediterranean, western Europe, the Canary Islands (Teneriffa) and North America. The name is borrowed from Latin, where it referred to A. unedo

Arbutus are small trees or shrubs with red flaking bark and edible red berries. Fruit development is delayed for about five months after pollination, so that flowers appear while the previous year's fruit are ripening.

The Arbutus unedo tree makes up part of the coat of arms (El oso y el madroño, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) of the city of Madrid, Spain. In the center of the city (Puerta del Sol) there is a statue of a bear eating the fruit of the madroño tree. The image appears on city crests, taxi cabs, man-hole covers, and other city infrastructure.

People have used arbutus bark and leaves to create medicines for colds, stomach problems, and tuberculosis, and even as the basis for contraceptives. 

The fruit is edible but has minimal flavour and is not widely eaten. In Portugal, the fruit is sometimes distilled (legally or not) into a potent brandy known as medronho. In Madrid, the fruit is distilled into madroño, a sweet, fruity liqueur.

We didn't do any of the above with our madroño fruit. We decided to try madroño pie, with madroños and some reineta apples. Why not, right? 

My love's an arbutus is the title of a poem by the Irish writer Alfred Perceval Graves (1846–1931), set to music.

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