If we had to chose a tree that encompasses all the advantages of planting, growing, harvesting, cooking and enjoying native foods it would have to be the Lemon Myrtle.
A magnificent subtropical rainforest plant in its own right, is also a beautiful specimen tree- bushy with low branches that have long tapering, deep green leaves and small bunches of clusters of tiny white, fluffy flowers in late summer and autumn. However, the most marvellous feature of this tree is its superb fragrance which is a blend of lemon, lemongrass and lemon verbena. Its a joy to have in the garden and just brushing past the tree will release its scent, and it's especially fragrant after rain. In it's native subtropical habitat it can grow up to 20 metres but is a smaller tree the cooler the environment becomes, usually topping out at about 6 metres. Lemon Myrtle will also happily grow in a large pot too if positioned in a semi-shaded (it loves morning full sun) and protected position. Although frost sensitive, it is a hardy plant and survives well in the coastal regions of Victoria, SA and southern NSW. In fact one of our Indigenous farmers is growing banks of this tree, quite a bit inland!
The leaf contains the active essential oils of up to 98% citral, containing: geranial, neral, cis citral. Lemon Myrtle has the highest citral content of known plants - for example in comparison to Lemongrass (30-70% Citrals), Lemon Verbena (40 %), Lemon Balm (70%). Citral has been shown to be anti-microbial, particularly anti fungal, anti-viral and has sedative qualities.
Lemon Myrtle as a herb has therefore a complex blend of primarily citric flavours with a spicy, highly aromatic lemongrass accent and is suitable for just about any dish, especially those with Asian inspired flavours.
Lemon Myrtle is the most commercialised of all the Indigenous foods. In the region around Bangalow and Lismore there are thousands of these trees under cultivation and it has become a valuable, viable and sustainable crop, all year round and with a sizeable export market. While Australia has a substantial Lemon Myrtle agricultural base countries such as Malaysia, China and Thailand are now cultivating Lemon Myrtle. It goes without saying the provenance of our Lemon Myrtle is 100% Australian, it comes from around the Lismore region of north-eastern NSW and is the best quality available.
The leaves, flowers and seeds are all usable in the cook's kitchen, in fresh, dried, whole, shredded, crush or ground form. If you are lucky enough to have a fresh Lemon Myrtle available, you will need to cut them very finely (what is known as a chiffonade in chef speak) as they are quite fibrous. Whole Lemon Myrtle leaves may be used instead of kaffir lime leaves and they make a great tea. The dried and ground leaves are the most widely available and this is of course, available from our website - click Lemon Myrtle The dried leaf is the more versatile form and the aromatic flavours are intensified with drying.
With its intense citrus flavour, Lemon Myrtle is ideal with fish, seafood and white meats such as poultry, veal and pork. It's also great with all vegetables and is a natural seasoning with Asian style dishes as well as many desserts. Try it mixed through yoghurt, sour cream or mayonnaise for a lovely tangy accompaniment - perfect with so may things - curry, or top a baked potato with Lemon Myrtle Pesto. Lemon Myrtle also makes the best tea which is a great pick-me-up. Add into crème fraiche or cream or yoghurt for desserts. Do try it in baking too - Lemon Myrtle Shortbreads are just so good or try baked in cakes like Lemon Myrtle Torta Caprese Lemon Myrtle goes so well with so many fruits and it may be sprinkled over mango, berries, banana and so many more. Add it to a fruit smoothie for extra zing or make a Mango Passionfruit and Lemon Myrtle Salsa to add to tacos, dollop on freshly grilled fish or anything at all!
If you are using Lemon Myrtle in a cream based dessert or cake (dairy or otherwise) that requires gelatine, a good idea is to add the lemon Myrtle to the hot water and gelatine mix . The mild heat from the water will allow the essential oils to infuse and add this to the panna cotta, mousse, bavarois, cheesecake or a simple flavoured cream for a cake filling or topping. Click here for more recipes
As mentioned above Lemon Myrtle has the highest citral content of known plants - for example in comparison to Lemongrass (30-70% Citrals), Lemon Verbena (40 %), Lemon Balm (70%). Citral has been shown to be anti-microbial, particularly anti fungal, anti-viral and has sedative qualities. So what does this mean?
Lemon Myrtle is Anti-microbial
Anti-microbials kill and/or stop the growth of microorganisms and are commonly used in medication to stop or inhibit the growth of dangerous microorganisms in the body - an important tool in controlling or fighting infections.
We know that the citral component in Lemon Myrtle is extraordinarily high and extremely pure.
Including some Lemon Myrtle in your diet as a tea or infusion, added to a smoothie or to a dressing, sprinkled over a salad and folded through yoghurt releases these oils from the leaf in a safe form and may provide a boost to fight infection.
Lemon Myrtle is Antibiotic
The same properties that make Lemon Myrtle antimicrobial also make it antibiotic - used for the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections. The oils released in Lemon Myrtle are safely antibiotic and used frequently around the world to help boost the immune system. The citral (>90%) in Lemon Myrtle is even higher than those found in the renowned tea tree oil.
Lemon Myrtle is Antiseptic
Lemon Myrtle is also is antiseptic and antiseptics work their bacterial-fighting magic on the surface of the skin. Lemon Myrtle oils are commonly used as a natural antiseptic for skin infections and the like, and adding a few fresh leaves to wash water can have a much softer, but still beneficial effect. Infusions made from our Lemon Myrtle herb can also be gargled in order to use these antiseptic properties to relieve a sore throat.
Lemon Myrtle is Antiviral
Antivirals attack viruses, either helping to prevent them taking hold in the body, or to cause them to die more quickly, and infusions made from Lemon Myrtle herb have been used by the natural health sector when treating viral infections.
Lemon Myrtle is Anti-inflammatory
One of the more famous properties of Lemon Myrtle is that it is anti-inflammatory and therefore frequently used in the treatment of congestion and reduction of mucus. By helping to reduce inflammation, Lemon Myrtle can be used to help with light pain and discomfort caused by mild inflammation without the use of painkillers and steroids. Traditional use of Lemon Myrtle was for treating headaches or cold like symptoms. An old fashioned but very effective way to use Lemon Myrtle as an anti-inflammatory is to make an infusion in a large bowl with very hot water and inhale the vapours from this. A towel over the head helps! This will provide temporary relief if you have a headache, if you are feeling congested from a cold or even from asthma.
Lemon Myrtle is high in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are used to inhibit oxidisation in the body and to prevent or fight the production of free radicals which are known to damage cells. These compounds exist naturally in many foods and plants and Lemon Myrtle is one of those most famous for high antioxidant content. Green tea is famous for its high levels of antioxidants which makes the combination of Lemon Myrtle and green tea a highly antioxidant brew -make sure to add a cup a day to promote overall well-being.
Lemon Myrtle is very high in Vitamin C
The concentration and purity of citral in Lemon Myrtle leaves provides high levels of Vitamin C - a key vitamin which essential for the repair of tissue in the body, and the production of enzymes which help the immune system to function. Another well-known benefit of Vitamin C is that it aids iron absorption into the body which helps with healing and tissue and muscle regrowth.
Lemon Myrtle is high in calcium
The most concentrated source of Lemon myrtle is an exceptional vegan source of calcium. The most concentrated form of Lemon Myrtle is Lemon Myrtle oil and this provides an exceptional vegan source of calcium. Adding Lemon Myrtle herb as a seasoning to vegetarian or vegan dishes will provide additional plant based calcium to the diet.
Lemon Myrtle is a good source of lutein
Lutein is one of those important caratenoid vitamins that are so important for good eye health and helping to prevent macular degeneration, especially as we age. Lutein helps prtect the retina from damage by reducing inflammation which is so damaging.
Lemon Myrtle is high in anti-oxidants
This is clear from the virtues listed above. Lemon Myrtle has active phytochemicals that are both both the hydrophilic and lipophilic. Lipophlic is especially an attribute as the body absorbs these types of phytochemicals more readily. Lemon Myrtle has a higher anti-oxidant activity than blueberry, which is globally regarded as the benchmark for anti-oxidant activity.
Lemon Myrtle has a range of essential nutrients
Lemon Myrtle is also known as a good source of folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and essential minerals including zinc and magnesium. These nutrients are required for the synthesis and self-repair of DNA.
Lemon Myrtle is a mild sedative and promotes well being
Promotes peaceful sleep for those who struggle at night time - make a lemon myrtle tea just before bedtime. This helps to relieve stress, uplift the mood and overall assists with easing depression and providing a 'feel good' element to the end of your day