Mirto, Mortella

Myrtle

Appears in

Honey from a Weed

By Patience Gray

Published 1986

A limestone shrub which can become a tree, another survivor of the ice ages; it grows by the sea, was once sacred to Aphrodite and is a symbol of death. It has exquisite white flowers and purple-blackish fruits which one eats in autumn when walking through the maquis. The fragrant leaves and seeds are much used in Sardinian cooking.

The ancient Romans made myrtle wine by immersing the ripe fruits in mosto (fermenting grape juice) at vintage time, leaving it to ferment, and then decanting it. The fruits were also used in Roman cooking, poetically enough in relation to wild boar, also a death symbol – being hunted in the dying year when fruits the myrtle.