A tree for every garden: Arbutus unedo
Arbutus unedo, the Irish Strawberry Tree, is a plant for every season and garden setting. This long lived evergreen shrub or small tree is native to the Mediterranean region, as well as areas of Ireland, France and Europe. A. unedo grows 5-10m and has a single or multi-trunked habit. It can also be pruned as a hedging plant.
The attractive glossy green foliage with serrated edges; bell-shaped flowers and flamboyant fruit in autumn (it takes up to 12 months to ripen); and stringy red bark which is pale beneath; make A. unedo as beautiful an addition to your garden as it is useful. Beneficial insects and bees love the mostly white flowers, and birds, the fruit. The attractive canopy provides structure, summer shade and wind protection.
The edible fruit, which is distinctly strawberry-coloured when ripe and approximately 20mm in diameter, can be eaten fresh off the tree or preserved in beverages and spreads. Online literature suggests it is barely palatable and often bitter, but the Vitamin C rich fruit I tasted recently was sweet and gooey like Persimmon. Admittedly the skin was a little bit textured, but I figure it’s likely full of fibre and other nutritious goodies, so therefore worth the weirdness. Apparently under-ripe fruit can cause nausea and over-ripe fruit, mild intoxication! I ate around sixteen Irish Strawberries in a sitting with no ill-effects, but none-the-less, proceed with caution.