Inventory, 12 ct : 0
Murta berries are small, averaging 1 to 2 centimeters in diameter, and have a round, oval, to ovate shape. The berry’s skin is smooth, faintly glossy, and taut with some give, ranging in color from red, purple, to white, depending on growing region and variety. Underneath the surface, the flesh is ivory, soft, and semi-grainy, encasing several tiny, tan, and edible seeds. Murta berries emit an aromatic, fruity scent with tropical undertones and contain a balanced, sweet, floral, and tangy flavor with guava, strawberry, apple, and pineapple nuances. In addition to the berries, the plants produce evergreen leaves with a leathery, waxy, and dark green hue and white to pale pink flowers that hang from the shrub in a delicate bell-like shape in the spring.
Murta berries are available in the fall through early winter.
Murta berries, botanically classified as Ugni molinae, are small South American fruits that grow on compact, evergreen shrubs that reach 1 to 2 meters in height belonging to the Myrtaceae family. The sweet-scented berries having been growing naturally since ancient times and have remained primarily wild into the modern day. The name Murta is believed to have been derived from the Mapuche people in Chile, roughly translating to mean “evergreen shrub or bush.” Throughout Chile, Murta berries have traditionally been utilized as a food and medicinal source. The berries are favored for their fruity flavor, eaten raw or cooked, and are known under many names, including Chilean Guava, Strawberry Myrtle, Ugni Berry, Uñi, and Murtilla. Murta berries were also introduced into New Zealand and Tasmania for small-scale commercial cultivation. To effectively market the new berry variety, the berries were rebranded under the names New Zealand Cranberry and Tazziberry™.
Murta berries have not been extensively studied for their nutritional properties, but the berries have been shown to contain vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, and boost collagen production within the skin. The berries are also rich in antioxidants that protect the body against free radical damage and provide lower amounts of potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.
Murta berries have a sweet and fruity, subtly tangy flavor well suited for a variety of raw and cooked preparations. The berries can be consumed straight, out of hand, or tossed into fruit bowls, salads, or used as a fresh topping over desserts. Murta berries can also be pressed into juice, blended into smoothies, fermented into spirits, mixed into ice cream, or served on appetizer plates with nuts, fruits, and cheeses. In addition to fresh preparations, Murta berries are popularly simmered into sauces, glazes, syrups, jellies, and jams. In the 19th century England, Queen Victoria enjoyed Murta berry jam so much that she planted the berries in gardens throughout Cornwall for use in desserts and preserves. Murta jam was also extensively made throughout Chile as a method to preserve the fruit harvest. In the present day, Murta berries are mixed into cakes, puddings, custards, muffins, and crepes, cooked into compotes, dehydrated for extended use, or freeze-dried and blended into powders as a health aid. One of the most traditional desserts incorporating Murta berries in Chile is Murta con membrillo. The berries are boiled with quince and sugar, and the preserved mixture can be stored in containers for several months. Beyond the berries, the leaves of the shrub can be steeped into herbal teas. Murta berries pair well with fruits such as lemon, orange, quince, blueberries, and maqui berries, vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, and cream. Whole, unwashed Murta berries should be immediately consumed for the best quality and flavor.
Murta berries have traditionally been a staple food source among the Mapuche people, the largest ethnic group mainly found within Southern Chile. The Mapuche people lived off available native plants and consumed the berries daily, used both as a medicinal aid and culinary ingredient. Murta berries were eaten fresh as a sweet snack and were fermented into a wine-like beverage known as mistela de Murta. This drink was believed by experts to be used to stimulate the senses and was historically consumed at the end of the meal. The berries were also incorporated into sweet foods and cooked into sauces and jams. In the Mapuche people's natural medicines, the leaves of the shrub were used in extracts to soothe sore throats and coughs, protect against infections, reduce inflammation, and applied topically as a healing skin treatment.
Murta berries are native to central and southern Chile and have been growing wild since ancient times. The berries were also found in Argentina and Bolivia in the early ages and favored coastal mountains, temperate forests, and foothill regions of the Andes mountains. Throughout history, the berries were consumed by native peoples as a food source and were first recorded in written documents in 1782 by naturalist Juan Ignacio Molina. In 1844, Murta berries were carried by botanist William Lobb to England and were planted on a small scale for the Queen of England’s personal use. Over time, Murta berries were also introduced to Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania for commercial cultivation and were sold locally and exported to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Today Murta berries are commercially produced on a small scale in South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania and are also grown ornamentally in home gardens.
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