Golden Apples

Strawberry tree, or Arbutus canariensis
Strawberry tree, or Arbutus canariensis

The Canary Islands Strawberry Tree, Arbutus canariensis, known in Spanish as madroño canario is a tree native to the Canary Islands. Surprisingly, it’s in the same family as heather. Well I was surprised. Heather leaves are tiny little needles, while strawberry trees have broad leaves. Tehre aer several growing outside the Caldera visitor centre.

As you can see, the fruits are bright orange, and they look a lot like kumquats, from the outside, at least. So why is it called a strawberry tree? Well there are strawberry-sized, and some other species in the genus have red fruit. And they are edible, although rather astringent. I’ve never tried them, but I believe you can make jam. On the other hand, it’s probably better if you don’t because they’re on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as “vulnerable”.

And here’s a fun thing: some people believe that madroños are theoriginal “golden apples” of the ancient Greeks, and that the Canary Islands (with their lovely climate) were the garden of the Hesperides in a far western corner of the world, where the nymphs of the evening guarded the tree of golden apples which could make you immortal.

Hmm. Maybe I should try eating them?

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