From the Spice Cupboard: Myrtle

You may only know myrtle as an ornamental shrub, something pretty to plant around the edges of the yard. What you may not know is that those shiny, spear-shaped leaves can make an excellent addition to our spice cupboards. Have you ever cooked with this herb?

About the only place you'll find myrtle being regularly used in cooking is on the Italian island of Sardinia. Like bay leaves, the whole leaf is used to infuse marinades and soups with its spicy, citrusy, and bitter flavor. The leaf is then discarded before the dish is served.

The herb was featured on a recent episode of The Splendid Table. Herb farmer Jekka McVicar explained that myrtle actually has quite a reputation as the herb of love. Not only is Venus the Goddess of Love showered with myrtle as she rises from the ocean in that famous Botticelli painting, but the new Duchess of Cambridge carried myrtle in her wedding bouquet.

Myrtle can be a hard herb to track down unless you have a neighbor with a handy bush who doesn't mind you doing a bit of pruning. You can also sometimes find it in specialty markets and at farmers markets.

When you do find some myrtle, give it a try in one of these recipes:

Veal with Myrtle on Chow.com
Poussin with Quince and Myrtle from Cuisine.com
Lemon Myrtle Prawns from SBS Food
Gluten-Free Lemon Myrtle and Macadamia Muffins from Om Nom Ally
Mango and Lemon Myrtle Cheesecake from Lemon Myrtle

Hear More: Cooking with Myrtle - Jekka McVicar on The Splendid Table

Have you ever come across this herb in your cooking?

Related: Italian Street Food Recipe: Homemade Piadinas

(Image: Flickr member dichohecho licensed under Creative Commons)

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