Plants

Strawberry tree: everything you need to know

The strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) is a fruit tree or shrub belonging to the Ericaceae family that is very typical of Mediterranean areas and has long become the symbol of Madrid.

Its distribution is Mediterranean, but it reaches the south of Ireland, where it had been doubted that it was spontaneous, since it was thought that it could have been taken by some monks who had visited Santiago de Compostela. However, soil pollen analyzes show that it was already three thousand years ago.

It is a tree that can live and grow in Spanish coastal areas but also in inland areas where the cold is not excessive. The strawberry tree needs deep, well-drained soil to grow in harmony.

The strawberry tree is a slow- growing tree that usually grows naturally in forests but is also widely cultivated in gardens and parks throughout Spain. Being an evergreen tree, it allows you to enjoy foliage throughout the year and, in addition, its flowers and fruits are very decorative, so it can be an ornamental tree in any city without any problem.

Description

The strawberry tree is a relatively small tree that does not usually exceed 7 meters in height. In fact, due to this condition it is often considered a shrub.

Its trunk is usually reddish in color with scaly bark and its branches take on a very particular greyish tone. Its leaves are bright green, small and have a serrated edge. Its flowers are reddish, grow in clusters during the fall and hang in the form of panicles, giving this Mediterranean specimen great beauty. Its fruit is called the same as the tree: strawberry tree.

The strawberry tree is a true tree, although its size looks more like a bush. It is grown as a garden tree in almost any terrain, since it is a very flexible tree in terms of soil conditions, but it is normal to grow it in deep and siliceous soils in sunny areas with little exposure to the wind.

In addition to seeing strawberry trees in Spain , we can find them native to Ireland or in some areas of South America, among many other places.

Strawberry tree gastronomy

The strawberry tree cherry is edible and sweet, but not everyone likes it. It is said that if you eat too much, you can get drunk, since it contains a certain proportion of ethanol, (CH2OH-CH3). Although these berries are abundant in the mountains, they are not easy to find in the market.

With the strawberry trees, a drink similar to cider and also homemade vinegar was traditionally prepared. In some areas of the Mediterranean they make a sauce to accompany meat and game.

You can also make jam or preserves. This easy-to-prepare jam is very popular in Italy and Corsica.

Strawberry trees in mythology

According to Greek mythology, the first strawberry tree sprouted from the blood of the giant Geryon, killed by Hercules in his tenth labour. This mythological origin is consistent with the ease with which the tree resprouts after a fire or felling. This vitality, added to the fact that the leaves are always green, makes it a symbol of immortality.

Hence, the Romans used it at funerals, as Virgil relates in the Aeneid. According to the Romans themselves, this tree was consecrated to the nymph Cardea. Legend has it that this nymph lived in the Lucus Helerni, a sacred forest on the banks of the Tiber. There she insinuated herself to the unwary in order to lure them into the heart of the forest, where she would disappear without anyone finding her. That ended when Janus fell in love with her and she could not hide from the two-faced god, who, in exchange for stolen love, granted her the power to drive away witches and heal children, the sick and the bewitched. . According to what Ovid tells us, when she was invoked, her job was to use her strawberry tree wand, with which she knocked three times on the doors and portals of the houses and thus dispelled all evil.

In the Maghreb, the strawberry tree is considered a blessed tree that scares away curses and protects from all evil. The Berbers usually do it at the door of the houses, and the branches full of fruits are used to drive away bad guys and demons. In Islamic countries they hang the clothes of the sick with the intention of transferring the diseases to them. These specimens end up recaragolats and dry, but survive the sacrificial charges

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Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

Robert Asprin

Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

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