The Plants in Our Village: Curry Myrtle

Wildly Rare But Very Useful In The Kitchen …

Curry Myrtle or Narrow Leaf Myrtle (Backhousia angustifolia) is small tree or shrub is found in the pockets of dry subtropical rainforest near rivers or creeks.  It is rare in the wild because much of our dry rainforest has been cleared for agriculture or housing developments.

The scientific name is a combination of “Backhousia”, named for naturalist James Backhouse, who travelled the Australian continent broadly and cultivated relationships with the Indigenous people of each area gathering important botanical information as a result. The second part of the name “angustifolia” is Latin for narrow leaves which is an apt description of the foliage!

It can be used in gardens as a screening plant and the dried, ground leaves can be used as a spice. Crushing the foliage releases the most delicious curry smell with a hint of bush honey. Apparently, the flavour varies depending on conditions and can include aniseed, rosemary or menthol. Some bushfood retailers are now selling the powder for use in meat rubs, curries, breads and laksa.  

Curry Myrtle prefers a shaded position. Once established it is drought tolerant but will produce better foliage with regular watering. It grows slowly to between five and seven metres tall but like most plants is smaller in cultivated settings. It is often multi-stemmed and thick to the ground in its natural environment which makes it perfect for an edible hedge.

In Spring it is covered in small white flowers that attract pollinators and birds.

Curry Myrtle is a close relation of Lemon Myrtle and Cinnamon Myrtle and just as useful in the kitchen.

By Jane Frost

Waxing lyrical about building a home for birds, bees, and the rest of my family …