As we’re walking through the market in Kadıköy I point to these and ask Umut what they are. Not knowing what the name is in either Turkish or English he replied: it’s like a strawberry. (Note: I LOVE strawberries!) As soon as he uttered the word strawberry and saw my excitement, he paid the man and I had the ‘strawberries’ in my hand!
As I was washing them I still wasn’t sure what fruit they were reminiscent of, at first I thought it looked and grew similar to a cherry and then I thought it might be a lychee – but it wasn’t.
The strawberry-tree (Arbutus unedo) wildly grows on the mountains in the Mediterranean region and is also native to Ireland. Mountain strawberry, known as dağ çileği in Turkish, is considered a winter fruit of Turkey. This tree actually takes almost a full year to fully bloom.
Its scientific name, Arbutus unedo, is said to be derived from the tree’s taste. The Latin meaning of the word ‘unedo’ translates to “I eat only one” – either implying it’s so delicious one is enough or the struggle of only being able to eat one due to its ‘acquired taste’.
It’s an acquired taste for sure. It’s not as sweet as a typical strawberry, and the prickly exterior and fig-like interior is definitely different to say the least. Some have compared the taste to even a guava or nectarine, I think it’s similar to a plum.
Since it’s an unpopular fruit with very little knowledge surrounding it, I found a few other names it goes by:
- Arbutus unedo
- Strawberry Tree
- Apple of Cain
- Dağ Çileği (Turkish)
- Killarney Tree (Irish)
- Koumaria (Greek)
If anyone knows a different name it goes by in Turkish – I would love to know!