Years ago I was at a barter and a friend bartered me some dried strawberry tree fruits. They were delicious, sort of chewy with a lot of body and a nice fruit flavor (not really like strawberry, but tasty!). Riding along the Burke Gilman Trail between the U-District and Fremont a few days ago, I saw the strawberry trees on the east side of the trail are starting to get bright red fruit – time for a harvest. I missed the harvest last year so I am determined to get it this year.
Strawberry trees (scientific name Arbutus unedo) grow fruits that are round and bumpy, and bright red when ripe. They are also rather seedy, like strawberries. The trees are native to the Mediterranean and western Europe, including the cloudy temperate climates of Ireland and the UK, so I imagine that our non-native similar climate treats them well.
I found this delicious sounding recipe for strawberry tree jam that I will try, as well as a recipe for strawberry tree liqueur. I liked the dried strawberry tree fruits so much that I am going to borrow a dehydrator. Most sources say that the raw fruits are bland or mealy, so turning them into something else sounds like the way to go.
I was also pleased to find out that strawberry trees are in my favorite plant family, which is, of course, Ericaceae. Other tasty foods in the Ericaceae family are cranberry, blueberry, huckleberry, and salal.