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Strawberry Tree
The story behind the poem

Strawberry trees - 'arbutus' - are quite common in the part of Umbria ('the green heart of Italy') where we live. I adore them. It seems to me that they have everything from a visual point of view: attractive flowers, even more attractive fruits which occur in various colors at the same time (a bit like fruit pastilles to look at, or baubles on a Christmas tree), evergreen leaves, graceful trunks. At one time I took numerous photographs of the strawberry trees I came across, hoping to capture everything in one shot. My husband quipped that I should call the collection 'strawberry trees I have known'.

It is true that the fruit of strawberry trees are nothing like strawberries. They are dominated by their fuzzy exterior and not at all juicy, even when extremely ripe. However they are served in our local Chinese restaurant as 'Chinese mulberries'; soaked in syrup they are quite palatable. One can also buy honey derived from the flowers; it is so expensive that I have never tried it.

by Damaris West

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