Robin Gale-Baker, from Sustainable Macleod, discusses growing midyim berries. This is one of a series of articles she has written about growing fruit trees (see right hand sidebar). She has also written a number of articles about growing various vegetables, growing various herbs and general growing techniques.
Midyim berry (Austromyrtus dulcis) is a perennial member of the myrtle family which is native to the eastern coastal regions from northern NSW to south-east Queensland. It is a spreading bush with delicious small berries. It can fruit from its first year onwards.
In Melbourne, midyim berry is a low growing bush. It has dark green leaves but the new growth is burgundy in colour (and attractive), while the small flowers are white (and also attractive). The berries are white with purple specks; they are about the size of a blueberry and also taste like a blueberry with spicy notes.
Propagation is from seed or cuttings in spring. Seeds take about 4 weeks to germinate and cuttings take 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 (i.e. some sun, some shade). 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 well with compost and well rotted manure dug into the soil prior to planting. Add more compost after harvesting in autumn. It also requires well drained soil.
Midyim berries grows well in large pots.
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.
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 is important while the bush is establishing itself. Watering regularly will also ensure abundant berry production, although bushes will also survive in relatively dry conditions.
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. The 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.
Midyim berries are used as fresh fruit, fresh in salads and fruit salads, with yogurt and ice cream. They are also used in fruit pies and in jams.