Sweet myrtle

Myrtus communis Myrtaceae

Myrtle was sacred to Venus in ancient limes, and groves of fragrant myrtles were grown around her temples. Myrtle also symbolised honorable victory and was woven into bay w reaths at the early Olympic Games. Brides still tuck sprigs of myrtle into their bouquets.

Other common name Greek myrtle Parts used Leaves, buds, flowers, fruits

Sweet myrtle is native to the southeastern Mediterranean. The sweetly spicy essential oil, also known as eau d'anges (angel's water), is used in perfumes and for medicinal purposes. 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.

• Varieties Varieties of myrtle include the double-flowered 'Flore Plena'; the box-leafed myrtle, 'Tarentina,' which is useful for topiary; Variegata,' a variety with white-edged leaves; a white-fruited variety called 'Leucocarpa'; and the broad-leafed or Roman myrtle, 'Romana.'

• Position Sweet myrtle requires sunshine and good drainage.

• Propagation You can propagate myrtle by seed, although the resulting

This gold wreath of sweet myrtle, a Greek symbol of victory, dates from the 2nd century Bee.

plants can be quite variable. Propagate named varieties by tip cuttings in mid-to late summer.

• Maintenance In frost-prone areas, grow sweet myrtle in pots and bring it under cover in winter.

• Pests and diseases There are none of significance.

• Harvesting and storing You can air-dry the buds, flowers, fruits and leaves.

Sweet Myrtle Powder
Sweet myrtle [Myrtus communis)

Other twyrtteAs

Lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora). anise myrtle ill anisata) and cinnamon myrtle (H. myriifoliaI are rain to re si trees from eastern Australia that are rapidly gaining prominence for their culinary and perfumery uses; they are now plantation grown. Lemon myrtle is a broad-leafed evergreen tree w ith panicles of small, scented while flowers. The leaves have an intensely fresh lemon fragrance, and the essential oil is typically very high in riiral. Anise myrtle (see Anise, page 14) is used in teas and also as a culinary flavoring. Cinnamon myrtle or carrot forms a shrub-tree with spicy cinnamon-scented o\ate leaves that can be used in cooking. Bog myrtle or sweet gale i Uvrica gale) of the family Myricaeae has sweetly resinous leaves that repel inserts. They are used in perfumery, as a condiment, and also in treating skin problems.

Although of limited culinary use, the leaves, flower buds and fruits of sweet myrtle feature in Mediterranean cooking, especially Corsican and Sardinian recipes, to flavor pork, lamb and small game birds. They are also used in sauces and some liqueurs. The berries have a mild juniper flavor, and both the dried flowers and dried fruits are ground into a spice that has the same flavor. The infused oil is used in teas, salad dressings, fish and chicken dishes, desserts and bakery items.

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Sweet violet

Viola odorata Violaceae

The sweet fragrance of violéis is often detected on early spring breezes long before the flowers are seen, leading inevitably to sayings such as "shy violet" and "modest as a violet." But sweet violets hold a proud place in history, associating freely with gods, kings, and emperors.

P. u Leaves, flowers

Of the 250 or so species of Viola, two are used medicinally: V. odorata (sweet violet) and V. tricolor (heartsease, page 62). There are single, semi-double and fully double forms of V. odorota occurring naturally in a number of different colors.

Among recommended garden varieties of sweet violets are Victoria,' which is the foundation of the French Riviera industry; 'Princess of Wales' (grown commercially in Australia); sky-blue 'John Raddenbury'; red-purple 'Admiral Avellan'; pink 'Rosina'; the richly colored 'Queen of Burgundy'; white 'Alba'; apricot-colored 'Crepuscule'; and the large purple- and white-striped 'King of the Doubles.'

The very double Parma violets have shiny heart-shaped leaves and profuse, large, intensely fragrant flowers that resemble rosebuds. Excellent varieties include white 'Comte de Brazza,' deep lavender 'D'Udlne,' pale lavender 'Neapolitan' and 'Parme de Toulouse.'

• Position Sweet violets thrive in a well-composted, moist soil. Flowering is reduced in shaded locations, so a position under deciduous trees is ideal. Mulching ensures good summer growth.

• Propagation Propagate plants by runners formed in autumn.

• Maintenance Remove old plants when they become woody. Apply a liquid seaweed fertilizer once or twice annually; overfeeding encourages foliage rather than flowers.

• Pests and diseases Check for red spider mite, which thrives under dry conditions. Water under foliage and spray with a seaweed solution.

In the IOth century, when violets were very fashionable, entire districts were devoted lo their production. The fragrance was captured in many products, from perfumes to toiletries, prepared from the essential oil. which is distilled from the leaves. Fresh flowers were used to create syrups, herbal jellies, crystallised flowers, pastilles, liqueurs and chocolates. Josephine. Napolion's wife, loved the scenl of violets. When he died, sweet violets and a lock of her hair were found in a locket he had kepi.

• Harvesting and storing Gather flowers and leaves fresh when in season.

Continue reading here: Herbal medicine

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