Myrtle, Myrtus communis. The plant grows abundantly in the North Western to Eastern Mediterranean; its multiple occurrences in the Old Testament testifies its significance to West Asian peoples. Myrtle has closely related names in most European and even some non-European languages; all these names relate to Old Greek myrtos and were typically transmitted via Latin myrtus. Myrtle is another example of a spice finding no wide application because of its bitterness, despite the pleasant odour. Its culinary importance is limited to the region of origin: The fragrant macchia (maquis) forests on the mountain slopes around the Mediterranean Sea. Mostly the fresh or dried leaves are used; the dried berry fruits are also aromatic and have been tried as a substitute for black pepper. The leaves emanate an aromatic and refreshing smell somewhat reminiscent to myrrh or eucalypt; the taste is very intensive, quite unpleasant and strongly bitter.

Myrtle is a perfect firewood, transmitting a spicy, aromatic taste to any meat grilled thereover. Furthermore, meat or poultry may be wrapped with myrtle branches or the body cavities may be stuffed therewith; after broiling or roasting, the myrtle is to be removed. Foods flavoured with the smoke of myrtle are common in rural areas of Italy or Sardinia.


"...there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes..." [Back to Herblore]



Myrtle on the hillside