Not all the local flora is as reminiscent of my childhood as yesterday’s plane trees. This, the madroño, (arbutus unedo), is called a strawberry tree in English, and, although it’s been introduced elsewhere as an ornamental shrub, the only part of the British Isles where it’s native is Ireland.
The madroño is slightly strange as the fruit matures on the tree for a year, so, although not apparent in this photo, you get flowers – little tiny white bells – and ripe fruits at the same time. It’s also odd that the word madroño refers to both tree and fruit. Usually in Spanish you get pairs like manzana (apple) and manzano (apple tree), ciruela (plum) and ciruelo, melocotón (peach) and melocotonero.
The madroño, which is used to make a sweet liqueur, is fairly innocuous, although I believe that if eaten unripe it can make you sick. I’ve also heard that it starts to ferment on the tree which is why some animals, including bears, like it.
The oso y el madroño – the bear and the strawberry tree – is the symbol of Madrid, but you don’t see many of either in the city. Here there are a few madroños that grow wild, but I’ve yet to see much in the way of even medium-sized mammals, although it seems that, at least quite recently, there were too many wolves in Castilla y León.
The post title isn’t intended to be totally misleading. I found a perfectly ripe strawberry in the strawberry patch a couple of days ago. It was too tempting to wait until I found my camera to record the moment, though, but it definitely had more flavour than any madroños I’ve ever eaten.