The Greek strawberry tree is very similar to the strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo, and naturally crosses with it in the
Mediterranean and Middle East where these trees are native. In Greek it is called Αγριοκουμαριά (field koumaria), Elafokoumaria' (wild koumaria) or 'Andraklos. It is a member of the Ericaceae family so is a relation of bilberries, blueberries and cranberries. It has similar properties to the strawberry tree.
The bark of this evergreen tree peels off annually and can be used as a decoction for sore throats as a gargle and the infusion can be used as a tisane for the same ailment. An infusion of the leaves may be used for a cold, and the berries themselves are said to aid digestion and improve the appetite.
This tree was described by Thomas Wright in his book, Early Travels in
Palestine, published in 1845. He has this description of what is believed to be the Greek strawberry tree.
“There was on the road a small tree bearing a fruit somewhat bigger than our cherries, and of the shape and taste of strawberries, but a little acid. It is pleasant to eat, but if a great quantity be eaten, it mounts to the head, and intoxication. It is ripe in November and December.”
It was first reported as having flowered in
England by Peter Collinson (1694-1768), an English botanist who must have seen it at Dr John Fothergill’s (1712-1780) botanical gardens and greenhouses at Upton House, in . Essex, England
The fruit of the tree may be used in pies and baking, and can also be eaten raw. Different parts of the tree have been used to treat arthritis, eczema, rheumatism and lumbago.
The fruit contains vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, has antioxidant properties and is said to be a good source of phenolics. The fruit also contains malic acid, fructose, glucose and sucrose, the natural sugars.
Very little research has been carried out into the possible health benefits of this tree.
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