Lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) got its Latin name from James Backhouse (1894-1869), a nurseryman from York. The lemon myrtle tree is native to Australia and the strongly lemon-scented leaves are a popular culinary herb there. The leaves are dried and used to flavour savoury dishes and baked goods.
The tree grows wild in Australian rainforests and there are also large plantations in New South Wales. Its short trunk is covered in greyish bark, which flakes to reveal orange new bark. The leaves are glossy and spiky and the whitish flowers form bell-shaped clusters.
The source of the strong lemon scent is citral, one of the key characteristic components of lemon oil. Lemon myrtle contains over 90% citral and therefore makes a good substitute for lemon in cooking where the acidity of the fruit would affect the result. The dried leaves also make a nice herbal tea, which is recommended for colds in Australia. As a culinary spice, lemon myrtle gained popularity in the 90s and is suitable for all types of dishes except slow-cooking ones because in those cases the herb's natural eucalyptus-like flavour intensifies too much.
Citral can be isolated from the leaves for use in soap and detergent perfumery. The complete essential oil produced from lemon myrtle is used in our perfumes and products for its fresh herbal citrus quality.