Bergamot - What actually is it?
- By Angie
- 27 Jul, 2020
Bergamot is a fragrant floral citrus fruit, which comes as a surprise to many! Most people’s exposure to bergamot is from earl grey tea and this gives rise to the common misconception that bergamot is a flower. The oil of bergamot that flavours earl grey tea actually comes from the skin of the bergamot fruit. This hardy citrus is normally the size of a large orange with thick skin and can be yellow to green in colour. The peel contains the highly volatile oils that are used in perfumes and other more cosmetic applications. The skin and juice tends to be very bitter and sour.
Interestingly, the main growing region for bergamot is Calabria in southern Italy. I was lucky enough to visit the region in the summer of 2019 and I was amazed to see orchards full of this delectable ‘sour orange’. I saw it growing across the whole region and while I was there, the blossoms were out in full force. While most is grown for use in the perfume industry, you can taste it used in local amaro liqueurs as well as in a sort of limoncello, or ‘Bergamocello’, which when served on ice on a super hot Italian summer afternoon was just seriously ‘La dolce Vita’! But enough reminiscing on holidays… sigh.
I first came across the fruit locally a couple of years ago, grown by Food by Fiat, of course. Last year, my Bergamot Shrub was my family’s favourite flavour, so I had to make it again, and this time share it with my customers!
While yuzu is super trendy and it seems like all you have to do is whisper yuzu and they all come running, bergamot doesn’t get the same traction. While yuzu is highly regarded in Japan, its cousin, bergamot is left on the side lines. Well, I’m here to help you learn more about this delectable citrus! If you love yuzu you will love bergamot!
While yuzu tends to be sweeter, bergamot tends to be more floral. Bergamot has bitter notes but is great when paired with sweet things, bergamot marmalade is something I make every year in winter! I know Fiat makes amazing bergamot flavoured marshmallows! Anywhere you might use grapefruit, bergamot will work.
I decided to dehydrate and pulverize the bergamot peel from the shrub making process, hoping to make a version of my sold out Furikake. I treated just the same as I did the yuzu and it worked beautifully. Actually it worked better! Because it didn’t have as many seeds so was nowhere near as painful as the yuzu to process! This strongly scented citrus powder went into my Bergamot Sprinkle and also I kept some for myself just to mix through salt and also sugar. The citrus salt will be sprinkled on fish or grilled things and the sour sugar, maybe beaten into whipped cream for a yummy dessert.