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Strawberry tree jam

1 – Buy a strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo). 2 – Revel myself in its good and fun fruit. 3 – Call it by its English name, strawberry tree, because it makes me happy and because I want to make friends with it.

These are my New Year’s resolutions. Everything happened in an instant. A dear family friend, Maura, gave me a jar of home-made strawberry tree jam. I tasted a spoonful, then another. Then I asked her where she had found those delicious berries. The next day I was happily picking arbutus berries in her garden and the very same day I was making jam. While bustling in the kitchen, I realized that I was falling in love with that sweet and grainy berries, beautifully fading from yellow to scarlet.

The arbutus, strawberry tree in English, seems a fairy tree or, better, the tree of snack baskets from The Wizard of Oz… it is, in itself, a magical tree because during autumn and winter it brings proudly on its branches at the very same time the leaves, the white flowers, which symbolize the hospitality, and the colorful and sweetish fruit.

Some curiosities. The strawberry tree is an ancient fruit, with a long history interwoven with legends, myths and rituals. The Romans attributed to arbutus magical powers: even now, in some areas, you can find strawberry tree branches with three berries hung at home to endear good luck. Its flowers were also laid on the graves as a sign of respect for those who had passed away.

During the Italian Risorgimento the strawberry tree was considered a symbol of the national unity. The fact of bringing on its branches, at the same time, the green leaves, the white flowers and the red berries had uplifted the tree, in fact, as a symbol of the national tricolor flag.

Arbutus berries have euphoric and energetic properties, they give a good mood: they contain much sugar that, while the fruit is ripening, becomes partly alcohol… it is therefore not advisable to consume large quantities of mature berries: they can cause you dizziness and drunkenness!

Apparently it is also very easy to grow: it is a generous plant, which does not require much attention and is therefore suitable for those who, like me, don’t have a green thumb. This is the reason I included the strawberry tree in my New Year’s resolutions: let’s start with something simple, uh!? It will be great to have some magic in the orchard, hidden in red and sugary berries, berries that tickle you and your senses when you caress them!


Ingredients for a medium jam jar:

  • strawberry tree berries, 750 g
  • orange, 1
  • brown sugar, 100 g
  • brandy, 5 tablespoons

Rinse the berries in cold water, and, while they are still dripping, put them in a thick-bottomed pan (as always I used my cast iron Staub pan, ideal for jam). Sprinkle the berries with the juice of an orange and cook on low heat for about ten minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the fruit becomes soft.

Now sieve the softened fruit. Crush the berries with a wooden spoon and collect the pulp in a saucepan. There will be a great deal of waste: I eventually had 350 g of smooth, orange and velvety pulp, starting from 750 g of fruit. Return the pulp to the heat and stir in the brown sugar and 5 tablespoons of brandy. Bring back to the boil and keep on stirring with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and ladle into sterilized glass jars.

Sterilization. Pour jam into sterilized jars and close tight. Put the jars in a large pot and cover with water: bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes and then remove from the heat. Let the jars cool completely in the pan, then remove them from water. You can store them for several months in a dry, cool and dark place.

Taste test. The strawberry tree jam has a special texture, it reminds me of  the quince jam, but it also has some nuances of flavor that bring to the mind the fig jam. I find it unique, perfect for breakfast on a slice of toasted bread or in the afternoon as quick snack with some cookies, to give a special touch to a moment of relax.

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This Post Has 48 Comments

  1. I’ve never tasted that jam. Now I am intrigued, but would not know where to find such fruits. Your jam sounds wonderful!



  2. Thank you Juls for so many information on this lovely fruit! P and I went for a walk last year and stumbled upon a tree with beautifully looking berries. I’d never seen them before so I picked a little branch with a few berries to take home to photograph them. I had no idea what kind of berry it was and was very curious if it’s edible. I sadly didn’t take any picture of them because they got mashed in my backpack. Now that I know they are edible I’m intrigued to know what do they taste like! πŸ™‚

  3. I’m going to make friends with you, and you make friends with the tree … what a fabulous post Juls. I am SO intrigued by these beautiful berries, and the jam making process. This is the first time I’ve seen brown sugar and brandy in jam… can just imagine how good it must taste with the orange in there as well. YUM!!

  4. @ Rosa: actually neither me! I think it’s easy to find it in the Mediterranean area. I have a solution! I can grow it and next year you can come to visit me and we can make this jam together!
    @ Sarah: isn’t it? it’s nice to touch them, they tickle your fingers and your tongue!
    @ Sally: I found that small pot in my Grandma’s cupboard! it’s a treasure well!
    @ Sarka: you know what? I must come to London and we must go and find that tree again! I sincerely think it’s the only solution! πŸ˜›
    @ Sylvie: they call it also Arbutus… it’s a good excuse to come to Italy and find it!
    @ Julie: I always love when someone tells me my post are fun! thank you! but, seriously, it’s my upstanding New Year’s resolution!!
    @ Deeba: brown sugar and brandy make a brownish jam, actually it’s not the best colour, I admit, but the flavour, the flavour!! I wanna make friends with you as well! πŸ™‚

  5. well… before 2-3 weeks my mother in law gave me something like this but neither she or me knew what was it! I just find it cute and I decorate it in my living room! hehe
    but I think I would try your way next time!!! (^_^)

  6. I have never seen these berries before. But, they are so fascinating!! I wonder if they sell them here in the US. will have to check it out, especially for their tipsy possibilities πŸ˜€

    1. They grow very well on the west coast of the United States. I have several. Was very pleasedwhen I found out you could eat them! Beautiful tree,yummy fruit! Mixed with crabapple they make wonderful butter! Great post’s everyone! Thank you for sharing….

    1. They are everywhere here in Southern Oregon. I was driving today and saw thousands of trees full with them. I am going to collect a bunch tomorrow and make some of this jam. I will keep you informed. πŸ™‚

  7. That’s the first I have ever heard of a strawberry tree too, I am fascinated! Your blog and your photos are beautiful!

  8. @ Christine: hope to stand by what I said!
    @ Asha: yeah! go for a strawberry tree! you ca search for it in online catalogues!
    @ Evan: for the moment in my friend’s garden.. form next winter I hope to have them in my orchard!
    @ Tiffany: thank you Tiffany!

  9. Oddly enough, I only saw an arbutus fruit for the first time a few weeks ago – in Portugal. And have never heard the term strawberry tree – too gorgeous! Beautiful shots as always – and a lovely simple recipe. Grazie!

  10. I am so happy to have found your website and this post. I used to eat the strawberries off my parents tree growing up. Now we have one at our house in Southern California. It is a beautiful tree, but I have not been tempted to eat the berries…until now! The strawberries are just starting to appear, so I will pick some and try to make your jam. Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. @ EA-The Spicy RD: thank you for stopping by! you are very lucky to have a strawberry tree in your garden! I’m happy this post has been useful for you! Have a wonderful day!

  12. This is the very first time that I am seeing or hearing about these. How intriguing they sound. I cannot imagine a combination between quince and fig. and they have alcoholic properties πŸ™‚ I have to start looking for them in wild or may be try to grow them.

    I love that cute little pot.

  13. @ Soma: it has an unique flavour indeed! next year I wanna try strawberry tree brandy!
    @ Charlie: it is especially grown in the Mediterranean area, such as Italy, or even Portugal!

  14. Hi Jul,
    I enjoy your blog and almost wanted to correct your post about a “strawberry tree” since I work for the California Strawberry Commission. Of course I wanted to let you know that strawberries grow on plants, etc, etc, but I was so glad to learn about this strawberry tree! Interestingly, I discovered one outside our office and was fascinated with the little berries since orange is my favorite color. I picked one and left it on my desk and it aroused everyone’s curiosity. Thanks again for the wonderful post. I’ll be back to check out more posts. Also feel free to keep in touch with us at the “California Strawberries” Facebook page. I’m sure many would enjoy your recipes.

  15. @ Jody: you made me laugh! ah ah ah! I’m happy you discovered strawberry tree! I’m gonna add β€œCalifornia Strawberries” Facebook page to my favourite one! I love strawberries!

  16. I made this jam with white sugar instead of brown, thinking that brown sugar’s taste might be overpowering the berry’s subtle flavours. In all I find it similar to an orange jam with a fig jam texture.

    I’m trying to work out if it’s got potential to be a jam to accompany savoury meals..

  17. hi im from a little village in derbyshire we just brought this house a few months ago and we have a wonderfull mature stawberry tree in the garden we was going to cut it down till we found out what it was now we love it and all the jam we get from reading your recipe thanks

    1. Hi Robert,
      thank you for letting me know about the tree and the jam! you are a lucky one!
      Happy new year

  18. Just made this wonderful recipe. You are so right–the fruit gets reduced to over 1/2 of the original amount. I did make one change–didn’t have brandy but used Bacardi strawberry flavored rum. It became very strawberry–e. Thanks so much!

  19. Lucky Me! this a.m., while out walking the neighborhood, I met and befriended the local Strawberry tree, whose “mom”, Irene was out tending to Strawberry Tree’s “friends”. We got to chatting [Irene and me, not S.T., silly], and 1 thing led to another. After much surprise AND delight…[really????…on trees???] Strawberry tree tempted me with her ripening fruits…unedo I beg to differ…the 2nd one exploded with strawberry goodness….yum!
    Irene has offered up her bounty to the neighborhood..looks like I will be busy in the kitchen tonight!
    Lucky in California

  20. I know Arbutus Unedo well. I love plants of the Mediterranean
    and plants that look good with low water requirements. I can across the fruit decades ago in Spain, sold in little paper cones alongside chestnuts. I didn’t think much of the fruit then. I’ve come to love them and I have learned to be patient at pick them at just the right time. The Jam sounds delicioso! People might prefer the “strawberries” as a preserve over fresh. On the west coast we have this trees cousin- the Madrone. Arbutus unedo is much easier to grow than the native Madrone. I’ve heard of people using the Madrone’s smaller fruit for preserves but it might be better to use Arbutus unedo fruit. As someone of Italian decent, I find it delightful that the Strawberry Tree was a symbol of Italian unification and rebirth! What it the Italian or regional name for this tree, per favore?

  21. We moved into our house 9 years ago and have only just discovered what our pretty tree was last week after I sent a photo of it for identification to the website growsonyougarden asking the question. I got several responses and have now started to make the jam. I love it.

  22. We have a big strawberry tree in our garden. The fruits look lovely – everyone wants to try some – but they just taste of nothing. I found your jam recipe and tried it, in case this might be the answer, but again the jam just tastes slightly of brown sugar and has a grainy texture, but very little flavour. I thought perhaps the fruits only develop any flavour if they are grown in Italy or California, but I can see some comments from other parts of the UK (where I am) and they seem to find them tasty too so perhaps we just have some sort of tasteless sub-variety! The fruits fall off the tree and get squashed all over the garden, making a terrible orangy-yellow mess, and nothing will eat them – the birds, chickens, even the rats and slugs will not touch them!

  23. How many strawberries are in 750 g? We have these trees growing all around my neighborhood community and I really wanna make this jam some of my neighbors

  24. Thank you for your recipe. It’s the first time I’ve made jam without adding pectin. l used water instead of the brandy. It turned out perfectly! I’m thrilled to make use of the rare and yummy fruit I found in my garden.

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