Bog Myrtle

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

bog myrtle (or sweet gale) Myrica gale, a shrub which grows in boggy places in most of the cooler parts of the northern hemisphere. It is smaller than and unrelated to the true myrtle.

The leaves and small, winged fruits yield an agreeably aromatic wax, which smells rather like bay. The leaves were used to make a tea in both China and Wales; but a more general use in Europe was to make gale beer, to which they were added in place of hops. The fruits have also been used in France, Sweden, and N. England to flavour soups and meat dishes. Fernald and Kinsey (1943) say: ‘The nutlets of Sweet Gale have been used in France … as an aromatic spice, having a delicious fragrance suggestive of sage.’ But it was more usual to soak them in hot water to release the wax, which was made into scented candles. So another name for these plants is candleberry.