A surprise Christmas Eve find of locally situated lemon myrtle occurred during a rainstorm. The sunny days that followed Christmas Eve allowed for drying of the leaves. Atmospheric temperatures reached a top of 34 degrees Celsius. In the herb dryer that I use – a handmade aluminium foil-lined rectangular timber box that hangs in full sun on my clotheslines – temperatures tend to be 5 to 6 degrees more than atmospheric conditions so it is fair to say that the leaves baked at 40 degrees Celsius for some period of time.
|Authors' own home-made herb dryer|
After a few days the leaves had largely lost their original green lustre. The leaves had taken on a slightly brown colour.
|Dried lemon myrtle leaves|
After removing the woody stalk from the leaf, the leaves were placed in a Thermomix bowl. Using the highest setting, the leaves were pulverised. I ran the Thermomix for only ten seconds and left it for another ten seconds to let the dust settle at the base of the bowl. On opening the Thermomix the lemon scent was very evident. The crushed leave was sealed into a zip lock back for later use. Lemon myrtle is best used sparingly with only one teaspoon needed in most dishes. It serves as a fantastic sprinkle over yoghurts or a bowl of ice-cream. Our household adds lemon myrtle to coconut as a topping on home-made marshmallows. The leaves can also be added to tea to give a lemon flavour to the brew. The uncrushed leaves can be used in stews similar to how one would use a bay leaf. Lemon myrtle gives all the taste of lemon without any of the bitterness of lemon.
|Crushed lemon myrtle|
If you have access to a lemon myrtle tree approximately five leaves makes the same amount of product that you would pay $6 to $8 for commercially. Pick leaves that are young, fully lustred and undamaged. As immature trees usually have leaves skirted around their base it is best to pick leaves at arm’s level (to avoid any canine urine). Wash the leaves before drying to remove any dirt.
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