Thursday, 2 December 2010

My love is like an arquebus, correction arbutus


At last I've remembered to take the camera on my daily walk. There's something I've been wanting to photo for weeks, and today it's almost too late. Anyway, there it is, up there: it's the neighbours' arbutus tree. I don't know whether they grow in the UK, but they're quite common in this part of the world. It's also called the strawberry tree, and you can see why: that red fruit with another behind it is about the size of an average strawberry, and the taste is similar although not quite so tart. The arbutus is unusual in that it flowers and fruits simultaneously.

You can eat the fruit straight off the tree. Once I offered one to my son Nibus, who can be particular about what he eats. In an impressive display of courteous discretion he took it outside, ostensibly the better to appreciate its texture and flavour. At any rate it had gone when he came back in.

J. tells me the Portuguese distil a potent brandy called Medronho from the fruit.

In Madrid, apparently, taxis and manhole-covers feature images of bears eating from the arbutus.

This is all I know about the arbutus.

I did not see any bears on my walk. Nor manhole-covers. But as always I enjoyed the view of the village and the mountain behind, a massif called Mt Caroux. This mountain is curious in that there's no other side to it. Once you scale the cliffs and reach to the top, it just undulates away at the same height into the far distance, in fact for about 300 miles northwards. Mt Caroux and its neighbouring mountains are the ragged southern edge of the massif central.

11 comments:

Sarah said...

Fact: The arbutus does grow in the uk, and the reason it bears fruit and flowers at the same time, is that the fruit 'hibernates' (not a technical term) for 12 months.
Bears? blimey are there some in the mountains you can see?
I'm thinking of walking part/all of the G1 next year.....gulp. What should I take as bear repellent?

Snow is thick...I'm gonna need more than this to abate boredom.

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

I'll get it right in a min..GR10 ! anyway looking for someone to carry my rucksack...any volunteers ? it's only about 500 miles LOL

Dave said...

The reason why the image features in Madrid is because it makes up part of the coat of arms (El oso y el madroño [The Bear and the Strawberry Tree]). In the centre of the city there is a statue of a bear eating the fruit of the tree.

No Sarah, I'm not carrying your rucksack for 500 miles. I'm sure chris will be delighted to offer his broad shoulders.

Charlene said...

I had never heard of this tree. Fascinating that the fruit is edible and the blooms are coming on for fruit in a year!

The most annoying tree I know about is the Catalpa. We had one in our yard in southern Indiana, US. In fact our rope and plank swing hung from a horizontal and substantial branch. That tree was always doing something; flowering, then seed pods, then shedding leaves. The oldest catalpa tree known is a 150 year old specimin in Berkshire UK.

english inukshuk said...

when I lived in The Big House in The Village, there was a HUGE strawberry tree in the back garden; fascinating branch structure, the teens - who were children at the time - loved climbing in it

(-:

(no bears tho)

Christopher said...

Sah: Thank you. I didn't know about hibernation in this sense.

Plenty of bears in the Pyrenees, esp. on the Spanish side. You can tell the difference between Sp. and Fr. bears because Sp. bears howl while Fr. bears GR10wl. They can be trained to bear rucksacks. This is how they got their name.

Davoogle: 1) Thanks for the information. 2) No

Charlene: Hi. I remember a very elderly catalpa growing in front of Rochester (Kent, UK) cathedral. It had low-slung branches ideal for swings and clambering about in. Some branches were so low-slung they had to be propped up on stakes. It must be dead by now.

I: Fascinating. I'm not certain what our neighbour would say if she found me climbing in her arbutus, but as she was once a trapeze artist she might be quite sympathetic to an elderly gent swinging from branch to branch.

Sarah said...

Groan...did Dave give you his newly published book... 101 of Dave's rib achingly funny jokes....for Xmas?

Christopher said...

So you got it too?

Z said...

Whilst not being low-slung in the least, I had to be propped up on stakes a year ago. Now, I could give anyone a walk for his/her money (though I'm not offering to carry Sarah's rucksack, she's younger than I am and I'm bone idle to boot). So please, no assumptions about the death of old sticks.

patroclus said...

I believe there's one growing opposite St Gluvias's Church here in Penryn. Must remember to add it to my Google Map of fruit trees in the vicinity, for when the apocalypse comes and we have to survive on roots and berries.