Lemon myrtle is a native spice that is widely available in the coastal region of Australia. You can also describe spice as “more lemon than lemon.” The spice was first discovered by a nurseryman, James Backhouse. Today, lemon myrtle tree is grown in different countries like southern Europe, South Africa, and the US.
The tree of lemon myrtle can attain a height of 20m. The leaves of the tree, which are around 5inch long and dark green in color, looks familiar to bay leaves. The small, cream-colored flowers of the lemon myrtle grow in clusters throughout the summer season. You can use both the fruit and flowers of this tree.
The fragrance created by lemon myrtle is similar to lemon verbena, kaffir line, and lemongrass, with a touch of eucalyptus background. Lemon myrtle has a distinct and lemony flavor with a lemon zest note and numbing camphor aftertaste. In powdered form, lemon myrtle is coarse and pale green in color. When prepared fresh, it releases all these fragrances and taste attributes.
Purchasing and Storage
You can easily buy lemon myrtle leaves from native food suppliers of Australia. However, you find the more convenient form of lemon myrtle, which is the powder form in spice shops and gourmet shops. Since the volatility of lemon myrtle’s essential oil is very high, it is best to buy it in small quantities for normal household use. Also, make sure you pack it in airtight packets to ensure it remains effective for a long period.
Store this spice just like other delicate green herbs in an airtight container, and store it in a cool and dark place to increase the life of the herb.
Cooking with Lemon Myrtle
Lemon myrtle is used to make several dishes, but it is best used for making milk or cream-based dishes because it contains the fruity flavor but lacks the acidity. It imparts lemony flavor in the dish and it won’t cause dairy products to curdle. However, you cannot use in dishes that need long cooking times as the lemon flavor will begin to dispel. For this reason, lemon myrtle is best used for making cookies, stir-fries, ice creams, and grilled meat. It is also useful as dressing on salads.
You can use lemon myrtle for flavoring your hot or iced tea. In order to get the best result, you need to follow these important guidelines. One is to add only a small amount of lemon myrtle in the dish, for example, if you are making 1 pound meat, use only 1 to 2 leaves of lemon myrtle. The second is to use lemon myrtle in dishes that are cooked quickly and are not subject to extreme temperature for more than 15 minutes. The reason is, when you cook lemon myrtle for too long, the essential oil present in the leaves is destroyed and a sharp unpleasant eucalyptus flavor begins to dominate, which completely ruins the dish.
Lemon myrtle is also considered the best substitute for lemongrass because it complements Asian dishes very well.
Lemon myrtle can be used many dishes, you can some of the best lemon myrtle recipes on the internet. But make sure you look for dishes that are easy and quick to cook. You can find different videos of chefs using lemon myrtle for making cakes, muffins, and pancakes.
Health Benefits of Lemon Myrtle
The leaves of lemon myrtle contain natural essential oils that are made up of terpenoid aldehydes. Trace constituents are linalool, myrcene, methyl-heptane. It also contains citral, which has many medicinal uses. It acts as an antiseptic and provides relief from gastrointestinal infections because is contains helicobacter pylori, which is responsible for many gastric ulcers. It also helps in alleviating intestinal spasms thanks to its antispasmodic properties. Overall, lemon myrtle provides a relaxing and calming effect when consumed.
Another medicinal benefit of using lemon myrtle is that it is used for treating throat illnesses, which can cause irritation and infection. The essential oils in lemon myrtle contain antimicrobial compounds, which are used as an ingredient in soaps, body lotions, and shampoos. It is also believed that the essential oil extracted from lemon myrtle has the ability to repel fleas and therefore is used on chemical-free pet shampoos as well.
Lemon myrtle has become one of the widely used spice not only in Australia but around the world as well. It is because, it gives the same lemony flavor without the acidity, which allows you to make hundreds of dishes that need lemony flavor. The only thing you need to remember is to use in moderation, use low heat, and store in an airtight container to increase the effectiveness of lemon myrtle.