By Jens Heijkoop.
How to use strawberry fruits in various ways
Our land is covered with the so called strawberry trees (arbutus unedo). This small tree has a large volume of berries, better known to the Portuguese as ‘Medronhos‘. This fruit contains a high amount of sugar and antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, niacin, tocopherols, and organic acids that are precursors to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The Algarve Locals use them mostly for jam, marmalades, yogurt and alcoholic beverages, such as the Portuguese medronho, a type of strong brandy. To non – Portuguese speakers this traditional drink is also known as Firewater. It comes from the translation, água ardente, which is Portuguese for burning water. You will understand this better the moment you taste it, as the spirit got his name from the hot sensation in your throat.
“The Aguardente de Medronhos is a strong spirit, a traditional fruit brandy from Portugal, obtained from the fruit of the Medronho tree, Arbutus unedo, also called strawberry tree”
While walking on MANA Land from around October to December you will see the trees filled with ripe berries (the red ones) all ready to be picked and to be eaten. To make one liter of the famous brandy, you’ll need around 7 and 10 kilos of fruit and it takes up to 3 months of fermentation. Make sure it is humid at all times and the distillation is best done in the traditional way on a very low fire and by using a copper alambique as distillation device. Afterwards, test the liquid it by rubbing some on your hands. You’ve made a good Medronho if you can smell the fruit after the alcohol has evaporated. Rather fancy a cup of tea? The leaves are used as well and often thought to cure kidney/bladder problems. Boil a litre of water, add 20 grams of leaves and leave them there for 10 minutes. Drink a cup 3 times a day for 3 weeks and your problems will be history. Enjoy!