The quietly performing Aussie native lemon myrtle produces oil and dried leaf suitable for high-end culinary and medicinal purposes. Right now an eager global market is clamouring for more.
Newly formed Myrtle Trading Company purchased a farm at Wyrallah near Lismore with an existing orchard and now is in the process of expanding production and is keen to work with local farmers interested in producing lemon myrtle leaf. This week they hosted a training program, in conjunction with Ballina based North Coast Community College.
Students paid to study - and to plant trees - learning about organic methods of farming that include controlling the troublesome myrtle rust - a fungus that spots the leaves and reduces growth, marking them visually but not affecting the plant's citronol-rich quality.
The rust arrived from overseas in the wind a decade ago and has challenged growers in bad years, such as this one, so much rain and morning fog. Copper sulfate to control the fungus is an organically approved product. Interestingly, the original variety propagated from wild cuttings by Russell and Sharon Costin at the Limpinwood Gardens nursery in the upper Tweed valley seem to weather the rust storms best while the native Myrtaceae's natural ability to produce anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties helps keep the plant in production.
Another issue is the slow propagation of new growing stock, with a 65pc strike rate and a minimum 12 month lead time before receiving plants ready for soil, according to nurseryman David Blomfield, Bucca.
Chief executive officer of the fully Australian owned Myrtle Trading Company, Darren McCoy has a decade of experience growing and selling lemon myrtle leaf all over the world and is enthusiastic about the product's future, in spite of present challenges. "The end product is without peer," he said.
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