(Myrtus communis – Family Myrtaceae)
myrtle (French), Myrtle (German), mirto/mortella (Italian), mirto/murta (Portuguese), mirto (Spanish), mirt (Russian/Polish/Romanian/Bulgarian), mirta/mrca/mrta (Serbo-Croat), mersin agaci (Turkish), hadas (Hebrew), as (Arabic), mord (Persian), ginbaika (Japanese)
Myrtle is a fragrant shrub which bears white flowers and blue-black berries.
It is native to southern Europe and the Near East, where it has long been cultivated. The ancient Greeks considered it sacred but not enough to stop eating the berries.
The flavour of the berries has a pleasant mix of sweetness and acidity, with an aromatic quality slightly resembling that of juniper. They make a good jelly and beverage, but the traditional use is to dry them and use them as a spice.
The flower buds may also be used in this manner. The leaves are used in Mediterranean countries as a wrap to flavour foods as they cook.
Bog Myrtle, Candleberry
(Myrica gale – Family Myricaceae)
The leaves and small winged fruits of this small plant yield an aromatic wax that smells like bay leaves. The leaves are used to make a tea in both China and Wales.
In Europe, they are used to make gale beer, using the leaves in place of hops.
The fruits have been used in France, Sweden, and northern England to flavour soups, but also in making candles. They were soaked in hot water to release the wax, which was then made into scented candles, and thus, its nickname.