Myrtle has a clear, fresh, balsamic scent. It can be described as green-floral, camphoraceous, sweet-herby, uplifting and clarifying.
Myrtle and Sweet Myrtle Cultivation
Sweet myrtle is native to the south-eastern Mediterranean. The plant varies from a shrub to a small tree with oval, shiny, fragrant green leaves and small white flowers with a central ‘powder puff’ of stamens. It requires sunshine and good drainage. If you propagate by seed the resulting plants may be quite variable. Rather propagate by tip cuttings in mid to late summer. You can air dry the buds, flowers, fruits and leaves.
Myrtle forms a beautiful shrub or small tree up the 3m tall, with many tough but slender branches, a brownish-red bark and small evergreen pointed leaves. It has simple, five-petalled ivory flowers with dense golden stamens, followed by small blue-black berries; and both leaves and flowers are very fragrant.
Which one to buy?
Look for variegata or flore pleno for outdoors, or terentina as a container plant.
How to use
Although of limited culinary use, the leaves, flower buds and fruits of sweet myrtle feature in Mediterranean cooking, especially Corsican and Sardinian recipes, to flavour pork, lamb and small game birds. Dip the leaves in water and lay on the grill when barbecuing meat for 10 minutes, to impart a sweet smokey flavour. They are also used in sauces and some liqueurs. You can preserve the fresh leaves in oil or vinegar and use in your cooking. The berries have a mild juniper flavour, and both the dried flowers and dried fruits are ground into a spice that has the same flavour. The infused oil is used in teas, salad dressings, fish and chicken dishes, desserts and bakery items. In aromatherapy myrtle is used as an antiseptic and for treating acne, oily skin, asthma, bronchitis, catarrhal conditions, chronic coughs, colds, flu and infectious conditions.
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