Madrona - seedling
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Unripe Madrona berries.
Arbutus menziesii
Madrona - seedling

Acquired: 2005
How started:
Source: Wild seedling, from birds or other critters

I grew up climbing in Madrona trees in the woods of my neighborhood. This tree is native to land that is under influence of the marine climate. I can see Puget Sound from my neighborhood. Travel away from the water and you aren't likely to see this tree. One thing I thought was cool about Madrona, and I still do, is the flaky bark that can roll off in big, brittle sheets. The wood underneath is dense and polished.

There is not much reliable advice on how to prepare Madrona berries for eating. The berries are edible, I know that for sure. Madrona is closely related to Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo, which has some pleasant tasty fruit. I have nibbled the red berries of Madrona, and fresh off the tree they are pretty bland.

I searched for guidance, and found a book called California Indians and Their Environment by Lightfoot and Parrish [1]. Here is what they say:

"Pacific madrone berries, harvested in the fall by vigorously shaking the tree's branches, used to be steamed in an acorn-cooking basket with a little water and hot rocks. The cooks dried the steamed berries on a basket platter and then placed them in storage baskets in the living house. Once prepared for storage, the berries could be soaked in warm water before eating. Pacific madrone berries also are edible after roasting over an open fire.

As with leaves of other plants, Pacific madrone leaves were used in earth ovens to separate layers of food. Pacific madrone leaves were also used in puberty ceremonies, where young girls picked and tossed leaves over their shoulders for good luck as they prepared to take a cold water bath.

Northwest Coast Province people harvested Pacific madrone wood specifically to cook salmon in the First Salmon Ceremony. In the past and today, the wood in recognized as excellent material for carving objects. The inner bark of this plant was also used in the past to make an "every-day dress" (Baker 1981:17; Schenck and Gifford 1952:387-388)"

So like a potato, a Madrona berry improves after cooking.

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