Today the weather was a very frosty 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so I was surprised to find that the fruits of an Arbutus unedo shrub were still soft and apparently unaffected by the freeze. Arbutus has round berries of an unusual texture: the skin is rough rather than smooth, and the pulp inside is mushy but not juicy. Nature got creative with the color here too — it looks red at first but when you look more closely you’ll see there’s also bright yellow showing through in the background. The berries taste mildly sweet, pleasant, and similar to the Kousa dogwood fruit, except that Arbutus is more fun to eat because it doesn’t have any pits inside.
The strawberry tree is native to North America, western Europe and the Mediterranean. I assume it takes the colloquial name for its visual resemblance to cultivated strawberries, but don’t let that fool you: it isn’t related. Actually, Arbutus is part of the blueberry family and is botanically close to kinnikinnick, an herb widely used in the Pacific Northwest for smoking and as a tincture for urinary tract infections.
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