Myrtles

Lemon, aniseed, and cinnamon in a leaf

These lovely trees represent possibly the most popular scents in Australia at the moment. The leaves have rich flavour/scents which are increasingly popular for culinary and cosmetic purposes (lemon myrtle soap will perfume a whole bathroom without difficulty).

They are generally found in sub-tropical rainforest areas in northern NSW and southern QLD, but are adaptable to most domestic growing with a little care.

They all have similar growing and harvesting conditions.

Growing


  • Are tropical or sub-tropical rainforest plants and can grow quite large (over 5m in height) in tropical conditions.
  • They start off in the understory, so require shelter from extreme weather (wind, heat, direct harsh sun) for their first few years.
  • Can be frost-tolerant once it gets large enough.
  • Make an excellent container plant; move to the most sheltered positions during the year until well-established.
  • Requires regular watering
  • Plantations do well as far south as the NSW South Coast region - our myrtles come from a plantation near Narooma.

Harvesting and storage


  • Use both whole and ground leaves, both fresh and dried.
  • Myrtle leaves dry very quickly in a cool, well-aired location. Keep out of direct sun or heat for the best result.
  • If harvesting your own plant, try keeping leaves on pruned branches and placing in a vase with no water. Ensure good airflow around the stems and leaves to prevent mould.
  • The result looks wonderful, and will give out a subtle scent over the next week or so as it gently dries.
  • Leaves can also be dried at low heat in a dehydrator.
  • Leaves can then be easily stripped off the stems and placed in an airtight container for storage.
  • Whole leaves will keep their savour for a good 12 months, if need be
  • Grind by hand or in a high-powered blender and store in an airtight container.
  • Ground leaves will retain the best scent for about three months.

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Lemon myrtle


Also
lemon ironbark.
Latin name: Backhousia citriodora

Eating


  • “More lemon than lemon”. A rich, fruity, lemony flavour from the leaves.
  • Excellent in lemony sweet dishes; can be used with lemon juice to enhance the flavour.
  • Use wherever you might use lemon but want less acid, or where lemon juice might curdle milk products.
  • As a result, is fantastic in sweet milky dishes such as ice-cream, custards, cakes, etc.
  • Fresh or dried whole leaves make a very good tea, particularly iced tea.
  • Use fresh or dried whole leaves when cooking whole fish to add a rich lemony flavour.
  • Use ground leaves in practically anything - sweet or savoury - to add the lemon scent.

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Aniseed myrtle


Also
Ironbark, Anise myrtle, Ringwood
Latin name: Backhousia anisata or Syzygium anisatum (it's changed names over the years)

Eating


  • A rich, sweet, aniseed/fennel flavour from the leaves.
  • If you like aniseed, you'll love aniseed myrtle; if you avoid black jellybeans, then avoid aniseed myrtle.
  • Use wherever you might use want an aniseed scent but not a strong flavour.
  • As a result, is fantastic in sweet milky dishes such as ice-cream, custards, cakes, etc.
  • Fresh or dried whole leaves make a lovely tea, particularly iced tea.
  • Use fresh or dried whole leaves when cooking whole fish to add a rich aniseed flavour.
  • Use ground leaves in practically anything - sweet or savoury - to add the aniseed scent.

Cinnamon myrtle


Also: Grey myrtle
Latin name: Backhousia myrtifolia

Eating



  • Leaves have a sharp spicy scent, reminiscent of cinnamon, with a cardamom/nutmeg overtone.
  • It can be substituted for cinnamon in dishes but, like the other myrtles, it's more about scent than flavour.
  • Add to sweet and savoury dishes for the warm scent; wonderful to enhance Middle Eastern and Indian flavours.
  • Try the leaves as a chai-like tea.