Native to Australia’s coastal regions from northern New South Wales to Fraser Island in Queensland, midgen berry plants (sometimes spelled midyim) are a favorite with Aboriginal people. Because they hail from down under, many of us have never heard of them. So what are midgen berries? Read on to find out how to grow a midgen berry plant and other information about midgen berry care.
Midgen berries (Austromyrtus dulcis) are sometimes referred to as sand berry, as they are a native bush food occurring naturally along Australia’s coastal regions. They are a close relative of the Lilly Pilly, both of the Myrtle family.
Midgen berries grow on shrubs of around 6 feet (2 m.) in height. Midgen berry plants have ovate, dark green leaves. The foliage is rich in oil, giving the leaves a gorgeous sheen. In cooler regions, the green foliage takes on reddish tones.
The plant flowers in the spring and summer in its natural habitat. Emerging tender foliage shoots are pink and combined with the lovely white flowers make attractive specimens in the landscape.
Resulting berries are small, white, and blotched with gray, which makes them appear to be almost mauve in hue especially combined with their hairy, pinkish-brown calyx. Birds love them but how about humans? Can we eat midgen berries?
Many Australian gardeners are flocking to fill their landscapes with native plants to reduce their environmental impact from chemicals and fertilizers, and midgen berries fit the criteria. Midgen berry plants are a hardy species that are rarely susceptible to diseases or pests. But there’s another great reason to incorporate midgen berry into the landscape; the berries are, indeed, edible.
The mildly crunchy berries are not only edible, but provide calcium, iron, vitamin C, and dietary fiber. Midgen berries are mild in flavor, somewhat akin to a blueberry in flavor combined with essence of ginger, eucalyptus, and nutmeg. Wow!
Berries can be eaten raw out of hand or are often used to make pies, preserves, or added to fruit salad. Eat them quickly though, midgen berries have a very short shelf life.
Midgen berries are often trained into a low growing hedge in either full sun to part shade but they can also be planted in containers, hanging baskets, in cottage gardens, or in rows or as mass plantings.
Midgen berry shrubs are most suited to tropical regions. In cooler areas, plant them under some overhanging tree branches to give them protection from frost. Because the plant is native to Australia’s coastal areas, midgen berry does well in sandy coastal conditions provided it is protected from harsh salt rich winds.
Midgen berry plants adapt to a wide range of soils if there is good drainage combined with consistent moisture. Prior to planting midgen berry, enrich the soil with some well-aged compost and then mulch around the plants well to help retain moisture.
Once the plants have established, there is little need for further midgen berry care beyond keeping an eye on watering it regularly. As mentioned, the plant is afflicted by few diseases or pests. Pruning is only necessary if you want to train the plants into a hedge.
This gorgeous variety is similar to 'Vanilla Strawberry', but it has stronger stems and even richer colors.
Hydrangeas are the superstars of summer, and ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ is one of the most popular varieties of this showy shrub (especially among Better Homes & Gardens readers!). But if you’ve planted and loved ‘Vanilla Strawberry’, or even just admired the stunning photos, there’s a new hydrangea variety this year that gives the old favorite a run for its money. ‘Berry White’ hydrangeas have similar pink and white flowers, but they’ve also got stronger stems (so they’re less likely to flop over from the weight of all those blooms), plus deeper, richer fall color that will add interest to your landscape even after the last days of summer have faded away.
Austromyrtus tenuifolia naturally grows in wet sclerophyll forests, often beside streams or in damp places in the Sydney Basin.
My Austromyrtus tenuifolia plant, is now many years old and is growing in my northern suburbs Sydney’s garden, on a thinnish layer of soil over a clay base in a position that is often quite dry compared to its natural habitat. While it is hardy in this position, it flowers much, much better if it receives supplementary watering or plenty of rain in the months leading up to its flowering.
Austromyrtus tenuifolia grows 1–2 metres high and about 1.5 metres wide.
It has opposite, narrow leaves 2 to 4 cm long and 1-3 mm wide. The white, 5-petalled flowers are grouped together on short stalks in leaf axils. Flowering is in late spring through to summer. The fruit is edible and makes and interesting jam (if you can collect enough of them -- hint the fruit is very similar in taste to austromyrtus dulcis the midyim.)
A showy and local Sydney plant that is worth a place in your garden.
Derivation of Name: Austromyrtus means southern myrtle and tenuifolia means thin leaved.
Midyim berries are becoming increasingly popular so you might find one in your local nursery. If not, ask if they can order one in or visit a native plant or bush foods nursery and see all the other wonderful edible natives on offer while you are there. There are also many online retailers that sell midyim berries.
Whilst they are only in season for a short time each year, I look forward to nibbling on them in the garden and have been surprised how well they have grown in containers. I think I’ll have to find some spots to plant more.