Strawberry trees, yet another colour in the Mediterranean bush

During the winter months, theintense yellow and/or red colours of the fruit, as well as the white inflorescence of the bunches, add even more colour to the green Mediterranean bush: we're talking about the Strawberry trees.

To be found all over the Island of Elba and along most of the coast of the western Mediterranean, Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) are one of the many plants that make up the Medierranean bush. They are usually about 7 or 8 metres high and belong to the evergreen family of the Ericaceae.

The bark of the tree is reddish and cracked and the leaves are shiny green; during the autumn and winter months,white flowers (that grow in small, hanging clusters) can be seen amidst the green leaves, and the ripe berries are either yellow or deep red.

The Latin name suggests that we shouldn't eat too many of the berries (unum edo = I will only eat one), because there is an alkaloid contained in the fruit that in some people can cause some problems, fortunately never anything serious.

The fruits ripen the following year at the end of the summer and in autumn/winter, so this means that the plant has flowers as well as ripe and unripe fruits all at the same time, making it trulycolourful and decorative.

The fruit also has diuretic, anti inflammatory, depurative and antiseptic effects. The fruit is to be eaten fresh, and it does make an excellent jam, while the bark and the roots must be dried in the sun It has a rather bitter flavour that becomes a little sweeter only once it is really ripe.

Although the .jam you get from it is excellent the real delicacy is the honey that is made from it.