Saturday, June 14, 2014

Picking Strawberries from the Strawberry Tree

I picked some Irish (or Killarney) "strawberries" from a strawberry tree in front of my physical therapist's office. I climbed up on the hood of my car to pick the fruit, didn't realize that I couldn't get back down without loosing my "strawberries." Squashed them all over the place. Right down the front of my shirt.

It was one of those Aha! moments when the past converged onto the present, and two stories became one. My grandmother often talked about eating them as a child, comparing their flavor to the haws of hawthorne trees.

Our ornamental street tree, Arbutus x Marina is named after the Marina in San Francisco where it was hybridized. It's distantly related to our native madrone and manzanita. 

The story goes, that when the Spanish explorers landed here, they recognized our madrone (naming it madroño) as being related to the Arbutus unedo which is common throughout the Mediterranean: Portugal to Lebanon to Tunisia; Albania to Croatia, and some isolated trees in western Ireland.

Sligo has the most northerly stand in the world, a remnant from the Atlantic period. It was introduced to England from Ireland in the 16th c. "one very fayre tree, called the Irish arbutis standing in the midle parte of the sayd kitchin garden, very lovely to look upon.

Hieronymus Bosch's painting, "The Garden of Earthly Delights," was originally called " La Pintura del Madroño "The Painting of the Strawberry Tree."

Pliny the Elder said 'unedo' means unum edo or "I eat one", and so I did.

This led to a longer post on Arbutus.
Arbutus, Madroño, or a Strawberry Tree by any other name
Chris Devine There used to be a pub in Killarney called 'The Strawberry Tree'. Never understood why. Til now. 23 Plunkett Street

Patricia D'Arcy They look delicious; but you risked additional P.T. visits climbing on the hood of the car. Awkward explaining to him/her.

Maureen Hurley Yes, it suddenly occurred to me that I was in a fine pickle. I uncovered some Irish tidbits as I expanded this post into a blog post. I'm sure I'll find more links too.

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