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Lemon Myrtle to the Rescue!

Backhousia citriodora

The winter selection of bush foods is Backhousia citriodora (Myrtaceae family), commonly called Lemon Myrtle or Lemon Ironwood. A subtropical rainforest tree, naturally from Mackay to Brisbane. They are planted as street trees around Morisset Plaza so obviously they have a broad range of where they are able grow happily.





Height: 6-8 m

Width: 3-5 m.

Low branching habit and clothed in clusters of fluffy, creamy white flowers in Spring. Non-invasive root system. Mature in 3-4 years, depending on site. Can be grown in a pot. Flower/fruit may be eaten as well as leaves. The aroma is a cross between lemon verbena, lemongrass and kaffir lime. Some people describe it as more lemon than lemon.

Pre - 1778 Aboriginal people used Backhousia citriodora for medicine and flavouring. Great used in cooking that is milk or cream-based. Will not cause dairy products to curdle. Good for biscuits, ice cream, sorbets, pasta, stir-fries, fish, grilled meats and roast vegies. Use like Bay leaves. Can be used as a flavouring in hot or iced tea also iced water. Caffeine free.


The leaves contain much essential oil which is made up almost totally of terpenoid aldehydes: citral (99-95%), neral and geranial. Trace constituents are myrcene, linolool, citronellal, cyclocitral amd methyheptenone. Citral is a potent antiseptic and may prove useful in treating gastro-intestinal infections including Helicobacter pylori, responsible for many cases of gastric ulcer. Antispasmodic properties that help alleviate intestinal spasms as may occur with intestinal infections or adverse reactions to foods. Overall it has a relaxing effect.


Also good for treating throat infections due to infection or to overuse and irritation. Believed to possess the ability to repel fleas and is therefore a feature of some chemical free pet shampoos.


...now that you've had your science lesson, just get growing this marvellous plant! Grow your own from tip cuttings (not always easy), seed or rooted cuttings. Or you can just glean some leaves from trees around your neighbourhood to enjoy in your cooking (leaves can be stored like Bay leaves)!


Author: Di Powell




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We are gardeners, farmers, and first time producers of our own backyard fodder, who meet monthly to learn about living and growing sustainably in the Hunter Valley and surrounds.

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