Myrtle berries (hemblass)

These berries are liked by a lot of folks here. The berries are munched on raw. 

Here is the link to find out what they are exactly (thanks Bassem!).

Now that the weather is finally cool and the air crisp and clean, hunting season has arrived; this is a predicament because in the Lebanese mountains folks are hunting for tiny birds  everywhere. It does not seem to faze them if there are houses nearby (even though it is against the law). 

I was told by Ghazi, a Lebanese foodie,  that birds that feed on these berries and (or) figs are the ones with the most delicate-tasting meat and the ones prized by hunters.

This plant has been around for a long time and associated with Greek mythology (Aphrodite), Roman (Venus), Hebrew history (named hadassah after Queen Esther) and used as a wreath over bride’s heads in certain European communities. It has also been used in medicine and as a food.

NOTE:  click on this link for more info.

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10 Comments

  1. Posted November 25, 2012 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    I have never seen these berries before, let alone to taste them…they look even a bit like olives.

  2. Posted November 25, 2012 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    A berry I am not acquainted with… Interesting!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  3. Kate
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Oh My! I came across Myrtle when I was in Italy years ago and am familiar with it’s Italian uses. I have a tree shaped plant in a 14″ pot now 8 years old. It’s kept trimmed to 8 feet tall and whatever fits when I bring it inside wide. I simply love the fragrance. (Not winter hardy in Kansas City it’s in my dining room for the winter.) It is the blue/black berry type. I had no idea it was popular in Lebanon. Or that there is a paler berry color. I never thought to taste the berries until now. Wow they are sweet with just a hint of the smell of the leaves. Thank you so much for sharing Lebanon with us. (And for sharing all your wonderful recipes and techniques!)

  4. Posted November 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joumana:

    How interesting that you are writing about this! I just came across a Sumerian word for myrtle and was going to ask you what the Lebanese do with them. I found out that some folks in the SE mediterranean use the leaves like bay or rosemary to flavor a wide variety of things. The common thing to do with berries is to use them as one woudl use juniper (when they are purple or black). The Sardinians even make a liqueur out of them. If the Lebanese have particulr uses for them, could you please let me know? Also, do you Phoenecians have specific uses for Christ-thorn jujubes? (Another Sumerian word I’ve seen recently). Thanks – Laura

  5. Christian Rene Fribo
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I have never seen these kind of berries before! Interesting.

  6. Posted November 26, 2012 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know you could eat these raw. In italy, Sardinia, they are used in a well-loved liquer.

  7. Posted November 26, 2012 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Definitely cooler weather. I have to have a book of all your berries to know which ones I can eat if I ever get lost!

  8. Joumana
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    @Laura: Believe it or not, a lot of people in Lebanon (the younger, city-dwellers type) don’t know anything about hemblass; I went into a fancy upscale deli (Aziz) and asked the owner about it and he was clueless; it is not sold everywhere and it is relatively expensive. so far, all I know is people eat it; will find out more and will keep you posted! As for the jujube, I have posted about it a couple of times, and people eat them or make a tea or even a jam (although not sure about the recipe for that yet). Jujube is good for the heart, I am told.

  9. Posted November 26, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe I have ever seen these berries before, nor eaten them. I love how beautiful they look though. And speaking of beautiful, I just noticed the updated photograph of yourself on the left! I love your smile, Joumana :)

  10. Posted November 27, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the info!

    Will check out the jujube posts and stand by for further info on myrtle, if you can dig any up. The best bet would probably be some grandmothers and grandfathers or other oldsters who did a lot more foraging than the young do now.

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