Name: midyim berry, midgen berry, sand berry (Austromyrtus dulcis).
Plant type: perennial shrub.
Climate: cool and warm temperate, sub-tropical, tropical.
Soil: adaptable to most soil types, provided it is well draining.
Position: full sun to part shade.
Foliage: new foliage is burgundy red and matures to dark green. The undersides are covered in fine hairs, giving it a downy, pale appearance.
Flowering and fruiting: in warm climates, small white flowers appear in spring and summer, but in cooler zones, flowers appear from summer to mid-autumn. Fruits soon follow and look similar to blueberries but are white with purple speckles.
Feeding: feed with a native-specific fertiliser when flowering and fruiting.
Watering: water regularly when young. Once established, midyim berry is fairly drought-tolerant, but will appreciate regular watering when flowering and fruiting.
Midyim berry is an attractive, low-spreading shrub that can grow up to 1m tall and 0.5–0.8m wide. The leaves are small and narrow, with new growth a flushed burgundy-red before maturing to dark green. Small white flowers appear in spring and summer, followed by an abundance of white, purple-speckled berries. The berries have a crunchy texture with a flavour that’s said to be a mix of sweet and tangy or sweet with a hint of (ginger, nutmeg) spice.
Midyim berry makes a great low-growing hedge or decorative shrub in borders or rockeries. It’s also fabulous in garden pots and can be used in coastal gardens, provided there is protection from heavy, salt-laden winds. Pick and eat the berries straight from the shrub or use them in salads, desserts and preserves. They don’t store for long, so it’s best to use them as soon as possible after harvesting.
Choose a spot in full sun or part shade with well-drained soil. In cooler climates where there’s a chance of frost, plant under trees for extra protection. Enrich the soil by digging in compost and well-rotted manure. Dig a hole twice as wide and to the same depth as the existing root ball. Remove the plant from its pot, loosen the mix to free the roots and place in the centre of the planting hole. Backfill, firm the soil and water in well.
Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to help conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds.
Midyim berry is a great low-maintenance shrub, so needs little care once established. To promote a good harvest, keep it well fed and watered. Birds may find the berries attractive, so it’s a good idea to plant a few shrubs to share, or use suitable bird netting to help exclude them.
Berries will be ready to harvest in the first year of planting. The initial harvest may be small, but yield will increase with maturity. Harvest berries in late summer and autumn when they are ripe and soft.
Water regularly when young. While it is tolerant of dry conditions once established, midyim berry will flower and fruit better when watered regularly, especially during flowering and fruiting. Top up the mulch in summer to help conserve soil moisture.
Feed in spring with a slow-release native fertiliser.
Prune lightly after fruiting to encourage a bushy habit. You can also tip prune new shoots 3–4 times a year to keep it compact and encourage a bountiful harvest.
As a member of the Myrtaceae family, midyim berry is at risk of myrtle rust disease. This fungal pathogen attacks young shoots, stems and leaves. It starts off as dark purple-brown spots on leaves and eventually bright-yellow powdery spores form within these spots. If left untreated, the spots enlarge and cause leaves to distort. Currently, there is no fungicide available for the home garden. The best way to prevent myrtle rust is to ensure plants are healthy – feed and water regularly to prevent stress.
Grow midyim berry from seeds or cuttings. Remove the pulp from the seeds and sow in punnets of seed raising mix. Keep the mix moist during germination, which can take 3–4 weeks. Alternatively, propagate from softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings. Remove most of the foliage and dip the ends in a rooting hormone before inserting into a propagating mix. Position in a warm protected spot and keep the soil moist.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
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Photo credit: Alamy Stock Photo and tuckerbush.com.au