Midyim berry – an easy to grow Australian edible native
Midyim berry (Austromyrtus dulcis) is a perennial, native to eastern coastal regions from northern NSW to south-east Queensland, and is a member of the myrtle family. It is a low growing, spreading bush with delicious small berries. My first bush, planted from a medium-sized pot last spring, produced a copious quantity of berries. It will fruit in its first year.
The midyim berry plant
In Melbourne, I have only seen midyim berry as a low growing bush but further north it grows a little taller up to 1m and can be pruned into low hedges. It has dark green leaves but the new growth is burgundy in colour and very attractive, while the small flowers are white, and also attractive. The berries are white with purple specks, and about the size of a blueberry and also taste like a blueberry with spicy notes.
Propagation of midyim berry
Propagation of midyim is from seed or cuttings in spring. Seed takes about 4 weeks to germinate and cuttings about the same time to root. Take a soft-wood or semi-hardwood cutting, strip away about half of the lower leaves and dip in water, then in hormone rooting powder, and insert into a mix of damp perlite and vermiculite. Keep well watered.
Position and Soil
Choose a location with filtered light – some sun, some shade for Melbourne. Midyim berry is an understory plant and gains protection from Melbourne frosts by being placed under trees, where its spreading habit nicely covers the ground. Plants placed in full sun will be denser and those in shade or filtered light will be more open.
Midyim berry is not overly fussy about soil but does do well with compost and well rotted manure dug into the soil prior to planting. Add more compost after harvesting in autumn. It does require very well drained soil.
Planting midyim berry
Dig a hole at least as deep as the root ball, deeper if you need to add compost and rotted manure, and twice as wide. Tease out the roots before planting and backfill with soil. Keep well watered until well established. Mulch well – I prefer sugar cane mulch as it helps to keep the berries clean and they don’t fall through it. Midyim berry grows well in large pots.
Pruning midyim berry
Prune after harvest in autumn but also regularly during the year to increase berry production. Berries produce on older wood so lightly prune the new foliage every few months.
Watering midyim berry
Watering is important while the bush is establishing. Watering regularly will also ensure abundant berry production but bushes will survive in relatively dry conditions.
Harvesting midyim berry
The berries are ready when they are soft and fall off at a touch. Sliding a basin or tray underneath the bush and shaking gently is a good way to harvest. Berries do not store well so eating them fresh and within a few days is best.
Birds and diseases
Midyim berry plants do not suffer from many pests. Net to protect berries from birds.The only disease that affects them is myrtle rust which appears as dark, raised spots that turn to orange. This is a serious disease but is unlikely. However, call the Victorian Department of Agriculture if you suspect it.
Culinary uses of midyim berries
Midyim berries are used as fresh fruit, fresh in salads and fruit salads, with yogurt and ice cream and in other desserts such as fruit pies, and in jam.
Written by Robin Gale-Baker