Myrtle, scent of Mediterranean scrub in the kitchen – Italian Cuisine

Myrtle, scent of Mediterranean scrub in the kitchen


Landings on the island. And it arrives: that perfume unmistakable Mediterranean maquis, engraved for millennia under the skin of ours nostrils.

Rosemary (also exquisite for hair health!) Cistus, broom, mastic, euphorbia and thyme (powerful antiseptic). And then he, the myrtle, an aromatic plant sacred to the gods or better to goddesses. Because if Eve covered herself with a fig leaf, Aphrodite emerged naked from the foam of the sea and went straight to a bush of myrtle to seize the branches e conceal at the sight of the Earth the its set off more in time. Fecundity, life, joy and love: what symbol can be more beautiful?!?

It's a shrub evergreen of height that oscillates between the half a meter e the three meters. TObelongs to the Myrtaceee family (syoussa dei cloves). THEis its buds appear to be micro-pearls that bloom in wonderful flowers white with long stamens to fair ray. The berries they are his children ovoid fruits, of violet-blue-black color.

THE its essential oils have various officinal properties, especially anti-inflammatory and astringents and then digestive and various others.

Although this plant is linked in our imagination to the Sardinia in particular – and with reason! – myrtle grows everywhere in the coastal regions of our peninsula and is also used in some southern recipes, in particular pugliesi and bells. A Typical Agri-food Product of the Cilento and the mozzarella cheese in the mortella, that is wrapped in myrtle leaves . And even Rome was in antiquity considered the "City of myrtle". Before the arrival of pepper removed it from his main role in Italian gastronomy.

The famous liquor "Mfraught " you can easily do it at home like a limoncello or any other liqueur obtained by alcoholic maceration. What part to use of the plant? The ripe berries, that you collect between late November and late January for the classic red version (or 'black' myrtle, of very dark berries, che begin to announce their next wither with the first wrinkles. And the white myrtle? It is commonly understood that obtained from the maceration of leaves and buds, that are harvested in spring, with a less sweet taste and an aroma more delicate and vaguely sharp. But be careful! There is also the white myrtle obtained from a "albino" variety of berries.

In the kitchen myrtle is traditionally used to flavor meat dishes. Pork first and then poultry: (hen in particular) e cacciagione, for example pheasant and quail. There are also recipes with rabbit and lamb. Typical cooking is roast but also lto lessatura: often, once boiled together with myrtle branches, the meats they are left to rest at least one day wrapped in leaves and berries.

The truth is that this aromatic plant is revealed amazing even with some seafood dishes. Unmatched i prawns with myrtle! In the Algherese recipe, which also includes other ingredients, the base is to heat the coarse salt with the myrtle leaves in a pan (at least 5 minutes) and then place the cleaned prawns on top (quickly, two minutes!). But the myrtle it can also flavor a slice of tuna rather that of another fish.

Then there are others creative recipes which provide for it. In the first courses, try the risotto and then advise you to try your hand at a pesto, made with its leaves beaten together with almonds, garlic, oil and pecorino.

There marmalade (loud!) and the honey of myrtle are delicious combined with cheeses, starting from pecorino, but also used in confectionery, for example with the shortcrust. And then: for years we hear again talk about the flowers on the plate. And why not those of myrtle, laid to embellish one fruit salad?

Carola Traverso Saibante
December 2019

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