Myrtus Ugni

Botanical Name: Myrtus Ugni
Family: Myrtaceae
Also Known As: New Zealand cranberry, NZ cranberry, Chilean guava, Strawberry myrtle, Uñi, murta, murtilla, ugni, Ugni molinae, Eugenia ugni, Tazziberry
Origin: Southern Chile
Source: Originally California Garden Centre (Have seen good specimens also at Grow From Here.)

Perhaps I have an overly romantic attachment to this fruit from my first experience tasting it, offered on the outstretched hand of a handsome waso leading me through Patagonia’s Torres del Paine park on horseback. But I’m hardly the only one who thinks it’s amazing and is baffled by its obscurity. Even though it’s known here as “New Zealand cranberry,” hardly any New Zealanders I’ve met have ever tasted it. You’re missing out!

The berries resemble red blueberries in appearance but taste like spicy strawberries. Sweet and delicious on their own, they have never made it into any recipes without getting eaten straight up first (except for topping oatmeal or cereal — perfection). But I think they’d be wonderful in salads and in Chile, they use it to make jams and a liquor called Murtado.

Plants for a Future reports the leaves are a tea substitute and roasted seeds are a coffee substitute. I’m sure it’s loaded with all the wonderful health properties of its berry relatives, but have yet to see any nutritional information or analysis on them. If you have — please send my way.

The plants are beautiful and adaptable. They did well in a sunny window while I was living in an apartment, tolerated gross neglect while traveling and now are thriving planted in the ground in a partly shaded area. They seem to be happy in full sun or shade, with average water or drought, and will grow up to 2m or so if you let it, but will also be happy if pruned to keep small.

  • 25/01/2007 First taste of ugni
  • 07/03/2009 Delighted to find this delicious berry for sale at Common Sense Organics in Wellington, NZ.
  • 03/04/2009 First plants purchased for apartment container garden
  • 12/2009 Planted 2 not thriving plants from apartment and 3 new happy ones from California Garden Centre in Seagarden orchard in front of the olive trees.
  • 05/03/2010 Lots of delicious berries ready to eat. They start out dark burgundy red and lighten as they ripen. When ripe they come off the plant with the gentlest touch. If you have to pull, they’re probably still tart.
  • 24/04/2010 GrowFromHereNZ shows me how easy it is to take cuttings from the plant and start growing a new one. Look for lots more to come!