Common myrtle shrubs (Myrtus communis) produce beautiful, small white flowers during summer and fall. Although these flowers look attractive, there may be more to them than meets the eye. In this article, we’ll find out whether myrtle flowers are edible.
Are Myrtle Flowers Edible?
Most parts of myrtle shrubs are edible, including the flowers, leaves, and berries. The small, white single flowers have several long stamens, while the leaves are simple and lanceolate. The bluish-black myrtle berries ripen over the winter after flowering finishes in the fall.
Although ripe myrtle berries are edible, they can be unpalatable as they don’t taste as sweet as you might expect. Myrtle berries are a good substitute for juniper berries in meat dishes. These berries are usually ripe during late winter and early spring, but always check that they’re fully ripe before consuming them.
Myrtle flowers and berries are usually dried and used as flavoring during cooking or baking. The flowers are sometimes added to salads as a garnish.
Myrtle leaves are more widely used and can provide a substitute for bay leaves. Myrtle leaves are commonly used to flavor soups, stews, or meat or fish dishes. The leaves have a slightly bitter and spicy flavor, which can become overpowering if you use too much. Remove the leaves after you’ve finished cooking.
Myrtle leaves can also be dried and used to make tea. You can also use myrtle leaves to make essential oils, which can have medicinal benefits.
Do Myrtle Flowers Have Medicinal Benefits?
The medicinal benefits of myrtle shrubs have been known to humans for thousands of years. Even as early as 600 BC, Mediterranean cultures prized common myrtle plants for their medicinal uses.
Myrtle plants are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. As such, myrtle has been used extensively to treat skin problems such as acne, sores, and warts.
Myrtle bark contains lots of salicylic acid, which is also found in willow bark. Salicylic acid works as a painkiller and also helps with skin problems. In fact, salicylic acid is one of the key ingredients used to make aspirin.
Myrtle essential oil is used to treat respiratory problems such as asthma, colds, and flu. Myrtle tea also works well for these issues. These myrtle products may also have a calming effect.
Myrtle contains lots of antioxidants and beneficial compounds such as catechin, citric acid, quercetin, and tannins. Many of these compounds may boost our immune systems and possibly lower the risk of certain cancers.
How to Harvest Myrtle Leaves
Here’s a quick guide to harvesting myrtle leaves:
- The best time to harvest myrtle leaves is in midsummer. Look for new shoots as these provide the best flavor. Pick young leaves that are starting to change color.
- Using sharp, sterile tools, remove some young shoots from your myrtle.
- Leave some new shoots behind to help the shrub keep growing.
- Remove the leaves from the cuttings and dry them. You can then cook with them or boil them to make essential oil.
How to Harvest Myrtle Flowers and Berries
Here’s a quick guide to harvesting myrtle flowers and berries for drying or salad garnishes:
- Pick healthy myrtle flowers any time from summer to fall. Simply remove them from the plant using clean, sharp tools.
- Harvest myrtle berries during late winter and early spring. Always check that the berries are fully ripe before harvesting. They should be bluish or purplish-black.
- Add the flowers to salads as a garnish or dry them. Add the berries to meat dishes or dry them for later use.
Edible Myrtle Flowers FAQs
Is Common Myrtle Poisonous?
Common myrtle is not poisonous to humans or pets such as cats and dogs. Myrtle flowers, leaves, and berries are all edible.
Can You Use Myrtle in Cooking?
Myrtle leaves, berries, and flowers can all be used in cooking. The leaves are an excellent substitute for bay leaves, while myrtle berries are an alternative to juniper berries for meat dishes.
Is Common Myrtle Fruit Edible?
Common myrtle berries are edible when fully ripe, but may be unpalatable as they don’t taste very sweet. Myrtle berries are better when dried or added to meat dishes.
Are Lemon Myrtle Edible: Wrapping Up
Myrtle flowers, berries, and leaves are all edible. Dried myrtle flowers and berries are used as flavorings. Myrtle leaves are an excellent alternative to bay leaves, while myrtle berries can be used instead of juniper berries. Myrtle leaves can also make tea or essential oil with medicinal benefits.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of myrtle flowers.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.