22 March 2011

Bergamot orange

"Citrus bergamot "bergamia" (Risso & Poit.) (synonym Citrus bergamia Risso) is a fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon, and a pleasant fragrance. Genetic research into the ancestral origins of extant citrus cultivars recently matched the bergamot as a likely hybrid of Citrus limetta and bitter orange.

The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit. Citrus bergamot is native and commercially grown in Calabria (Italy), where more than 80% are found, and some in France, and in Ivory Coast for the essential oil, but not for juice consumption.  Bergamot grows on small trees which blossom during the winter. The distinctive aroma of the bergamot is most commonly known for its use in Earl Grey tea, though the juice of the fruit has also been used in Calabrian indigenous medicine as a herbal remedy for malaria, and its essential oil is popular in aromatherapy applications.

Bergamot uses in food
An essence extracted from the aromatic skin of this sour fruit is used to flavour Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas, and confectionery. An Italian food manufacturer, Caffé Sicilia in Noto, Syracuse, Sicily, produces a commercial marmalade using the fruit as its principal ingredient.  It is also popular in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus as a preserve, made with bergamot peel boiled in sugar syrup. In Sweden and Norway, bergamot is a very common flavorant in snus, a smokeless tobacco product.

The actual fruit of the bergamot orange itself is not known to be edible. The Oxford Companion to Food(2006) states, "The bergamot orange is not edible and is grown only for its fragrant oil, although its peel is sometimes candied."

 Companion plant
Bergamot's aromatic roots are thought to mask other nearby plants from pests that attack their roots, and so are sometimes grown as a companion in vegetable gardens.

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