Where am I from?
I am Bergamot. Like all citrus fruit, I'm originally from China, early records of sour oranges (of whom I'm a relative) show them thriving in 300 B.C. in South East Asia. I turned up in the 1700s being traded by Venetians who in turn probably picked me up from Arab traders, once in Italy though, I thrived, I've been grown commercially on the Ivory Coast but other attempts in the Americas haven't succeeded as yet. I've a Protected Designation of Origin from Calabria, Italy. I'm called Lemon Bergamot (no relation to the American herb that bears the same name) or Orange Bergamot as I'm a hybrid of the two citrus fruits.
What do I look like?
I look like a rounder, smaller lemon. Or perhaps a lemon-coloured tangerine? I've pebbled skin, a pale yellow colour and am semi-ovate (means I'm shaped a little like an egg!) Don't eat me raw, I might have all the amazing flavours and fragrances you could hope for, my juice and zest may be renowned for their flavour, but raw... well the politest word is unpalatable!
And on the inside?
I have juice less sour than a lemon, but more bitter than a grapefruit. I'm packed with pith (yup, you can make lovely marmalade from me) and rumour has it, I'm fantastic in a cocktail to add just the right amount of sourness. The essential oils made from my fragrant skin are used in aromatherapy and fragrance, I'm particularly famous for being added to black tea to make Earl Grey.
What do I do?
Studies showed that bergamot lowered the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels which is a major factor for heart disease. It also raised the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which is good and has protective benefits. Bergamot also lowered the total cholesterol levels in participants.
Bergamot oil is used in skincare products such as creams, soaps, perfumes, lotions and suntan oils. It is used for psoriasis as well as an antiseptic against infections and to reduce inflammation. It is also used to treat a rare type of skin cancer. It increases your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, so it must not be used along with other medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight.
Kids are NOT to use bergamot supplements. Pregnant or breast feeding women and those on medications are advised to seek their doctor or pharmacist's advice before use.
Cooking and using ideas
I am very popular with chefsa and foodies... ideas include
Add bergamot rind and juice to flavour yoghurt, try mixing with charred cucumber, fresh dill and dill oil for an amazing sauce.
Add bergamot to Asian-style marinades with soy, ginger and rice wine vinegar to give it a zesty zing.
Often used in Persian cooking - candied bergamot in exotic salads or try adding bergamot zest to madeleines
Add bergamot zest to meringues
Lift marmalade to another level (rinse the rind before use to tame its tartness).
Bergamot and mint make for a refreshing sorbet
Make bergamot syrup to add to prosecco or sparkling water.
Try with warm spices of cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, star anise and chilli to glaze lemon (and bergamot) polenta cake.
Use slices of bergamot in Earl Grey and single- estate Ceylon teas, or with infusions such as Verbena and Chamomile.