The idyllic countryside of Sardenia is perfumed by the scent of myrtle, rosemary, juniper and strawberry trees. Found throughout the island, the wild arbutus, or tree strawberry, produces a fruit with an intoxicating aroma and a unique flavor that although resembles a strawberry doesn’t taste anything like one. I have eaten them ripe off a beautiful flowering strawberry tree in my friend’s front yard in Perugia (wild arbutus is grown as a popular ornamental hedge shrub throughout Italy) and as Miele di Corbezzolo, strawberry tree honey, drizzled over sebadas, a traditional cheese-filled fritter and a specialty of Sardinia. The honey is strong flavored and bittersweet.
Corbezzolo honey is part of the world’s global pantry as the wild arbutus is native not only to the Mediterranean but the Atlantic coast of Ireland where it is known as the “Irish strawberry tree” and the honey produced as Killarney honey. Mentioned in poetry and prose, immortalized by an artist in the Garden of Earthly Delights, used to makes jams and liquers – the apple of Eve may just have been a strawberry.