Ilivetolearn's Blog

April 8, 2006

of vines and trees, el Oso y el Madroño

Filed under: food/groceries,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 10:36 am

The wisteria vines in the neighborhood are blooming gloriously…and I’ve spotted a few lilacs, but not many. I keep scouting for one on a deserted stretch of road, perhaps near the scrubby golf course across from the American School, so I can steal a few branches to bring inside–so far no luck. And there are strawberries in the markets…probably from Valencia or thereabouts…very sweet. No matter how many kilos I bring home, Evan asks, “Can I eat them all?” and I have to prevail upon him to save a few for the girls’ lunch boxes. Too bad I haven’t seen jam jars and Sure-Jell on this side of the Atlantic.

The symbol of Madrid, since 1227 at least, is a bear reaching up into a madroño tree to get its red berries. This image appears in the city’s shield, reproduced on the back of every cab; its greatest embodiment is a 20-ton sculpture in Puerta del Sol, usually called “The Bear and the Strawberry Tree.” Absurd, since strawberries grow on vines. Some conscientious horticulturally-literate person has transposed it to “The Bear and the Blueberry Tree.” Equally absurd, since the fruit in question is red.

A little internet research shows that the tree is actually arbutus unedo, related to the Pacific Northwest’s madrone (arbutus menziesii), and bearing orangey-red fruit which has “minimal flavor,” but high sugar content. It apparently makes great jam! In Portugal they make a liqueur called Aguardente (water with teeth) de Medronho from it. It is said to ferment, sometimes while still on the tree, and be slightly narcotic and/or hallucinogenic. Those bears were on to something.


1 Comment »

  1. Happy Easter

    Wow, after being there less than a year, your 6-some has already negotiated a truce with the Basque separatists. Awesome! Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter Springtime. Love, Ellen

    Comment by Anonymous — April 12, 2006 @ 3:42 am | Reply

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