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Myrtle

Myrtle

Myrtle
Myrtle
Myrtle

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Myrtle

 By Bron Hendrixson

Ovid wrote repeatedly about this aphrodisiac berry in The Art of Love:

She was standing with her locks wreathed with myrtle. She gave me a leaf and a few berries. Recovering them, I was sensible of the divine influence as well; the sky shone with greater brightness and all cares departed from my breast.

Myrtle no doubt has the greatest reputation of any aphrodisiac berry. The strawberry has been mentioned as a love berry and the sugarberry (see Index) has something of a scarlet past, but among the berries only myrtle and allspice have really been valued as love foods. Allspice, or pimento (Pimenta officialis), is the dried, unripe berry of an aromatic 20- to 40-foot West Indian tree and isn’t much grown in the garden. Myrtle, however, is easy to grow and has more of an amorous reputation. Myrtle, which originated in western Asia, is believed by the Arabs to be one of the three things (along with a date seed and a grain of wheat) that Adam took with him when he was cast out of Paradise. Venus wore a garland of myrtle when she rose from the sea, according to Roman mythology, and when satyrs tried to watch her bathing in the nude, she hid behind a myrtle bush. Myrtle crows were awarded to victors of the Greek Olympic games and the plant has been a symbol of strength and love since ancient times. The Romans offered myrtle to Priapus as tokens of their gratitude for success in sexual affairs and the ancient Britons dedicated the plant to their goddess of love, always including myrtle in bridal bouquets and often planting myrtles near the homes of newlyweds. Mentioned in Pertronius’ Satyricon, myrtle berries. Leaves, and flowers were used in many love potions and the plant’s aromatic leaves and flowers have long been employed in the perfumery.

The myrtle's berries were used by the Romans to make a sauce eaten with wild boar, and the Corsicans still make an aromatic liqueur from them. A condiment can also be made from myrtle berries, but the most interesting recipe for the plant is this intriguing medieval one recommended for “sluggish lovers”:

The flower and leaves of myrtle two handfuls infuse in two quarts of spring water, and a quart of white wine for 24 hours and then distill them in a cold still and this will be a strong scent and tincture, and by adding more or less of the myrtle you make it stronger or weaker as you please. This beautifies and mixed with cordial syrups is a good cordial and inclines those that drink it to be very amorous.  


 
 
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Myrtle