Myrtle is a Mediterranean evergreen shrub whose leaves and blue berries have a flavor similar to juniper and rosemary.
The Myrtle has long been a symbolic plant in Mediterranean cultures. In ancient Greece it was sacred to Aphrodite and later to the Roman equivalent, Venus. It preceded Laurel as the plant symbolizing victory, whether in war or in athletic games. One can see Myrtle symbolically used in this way today--the golden designs used on U. S. military officers' hats contain sprigs of Myrtle. The plant's berries were used for centuries by the Romans as a pepper-like seasoning. The leaves were used in medicine, and both the leaves and flowers were used to make love potions (being the sacred plant of Venus). Myrtle is also a symbolic plant for the Jews, being one of four plants used during the Sukkoth festival that celebrates the harvest and commemorates the period during which the Jews wandered in the wilderness after the Exodus.
Myrtle was one of the flavoring ingredients in the original recipe for Mortadella, a smoked sausage from Bologna, Italy. (Juniper is now mostly used).
On the Italian island of Sardinia, a digestive liqueur called mirto is made by macerating myrtle berries in alcohol.
Myrtle berries are also widely used in Corsican cuisine to flavor game and charcuterie.
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