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Myrtle berries grow on small evergreen bushes that can reach heights of up to five meters. The leaves contain the valuable essential oils which are valued for both medicinal uses and culinary applications, similar to bay. The deep blue berries have an elongated oval shape and a shiny exterior. When fresh they are soft and aromatic. Beneath the blackish-blue skin the flesh is reddish-purple and is filled with small kidney-shaped seeds. The taste is a cross between Juniper and rosemary, with an initial aroma of pine and eucalyptus. The fresh berries have a somewhat bitter and tannic after-taste.
Myrtle berries are available in the fall.
Myrtle berries are botanically classified as Myrtus communis and sometimes referred to as Common Myrtle, True Myrtle, Sweet Myrtle or Roman Myrtle. The etymology of the name has roots in both Greek mythology and Olympic history. Myrsìne was a young girl transformed by the goddess, Athena into a Myrtle shrub because she dared to beat a male competitor in the games. The Ancient Greeks made crowns of Myrtle leaves and fruits to adorn the winners’ heads during the Olympic Games.
Myrtle contains various antioxidants and flavonoid compounds, including myricetin, as well as quercetin, catechin, citric and malic acids, linalool, pinene, tannins, and other sugars. Ulcer. Early Egyptians and Assyrians used the berries for their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties in treating ulcers.
Myrtle berries can be used similarly to Juniper berries or peppercorns, specifically in their dried form, and have been referred to as Corsican pepper or Myrtle pepper. They are often used to flavor chicken, pork, wild boar and other game meats. A typical Sardinian recipe for roast suckling pig, called porceddu, calls for the meat to be roasted over a mixture of juniper, myrtle, bay tree and olive wood and then served over myrtle branches to give it an enticing aroma. Myrtle berries are often combined with other types of fruit such as apples to make a thick, dark, fragrant jam which is used in traditional Sardinian pastries. The berries are also combined with black tea and served as a cold drink. Mirto is a heavy, sweet and herbal liqueur that is made from Myrtle berries and sweetened with honey.
The Myrtle plant has come to symbolize passion, fertility and feminine beauty. For this reason, in many different cultures it is synonymous with weddings. In 1840 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert her bouquet included Myrtle. Legend has it that, after the wedding, Victoria planted the Myrtle sprig from her bouquet in her garden on the Isle of Wight. From then on every royal bride has done the same.
The Myrtle plant is native to the Mediterranean region and is particularly widespread on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. Its use dates back to the beginning of recorded history, used similarly to Bay or Juniper in Roman cuisine. The fruit was used both fresh and dried as a spice before Indian spices were introduced to the region. Today, Myrtle berries and the shrubs they grow on are often grown for ornamental purposes. The plants do particularly well in sunny and windy locations with a close proximity to the ocean.
Recipes that include Myrtle Berries. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Big Sis Little Dish||Myrtle Berry Citrus Sauce|
|Penniless Parenting||Myrtle Berry and Rosehip Candies|
|Hunter Angler Gardener Cook||Mirto (Sardinian Myrtle Berry Liquer)|