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Bergamotto lemons are round and a bit larger than an orange, with a slight pear shape. The green skin of the Bergamotto lemon is thin and very aromatic, which is a result of high amounts of a compound called limonene present in the peel. The skin slowly changes from lime green to a greenish yellow color towards the end of the season. The flesh of the Bergamotto lemon resembles that of a grapefruit, and has a fragrant aroma. The taste of the juice is bitter, acidic, and somewhat musty.
Bergamotto lemon, or Bergamot citrus, is available in the fall through the spring.
Bergamotto lemon is a citrus variety botanically classified as Citrus bergamia var. Risso. Bergamotto lemon is sometimes known as Bergamot orange or Bergamot citrus, because it is really more lemon than orange. This variety of Bergamot citrus is grown in Calabria, Italy, along a narrow 60-mile strip of the Ionian coast, and is protected, grown and distributed by the Consorzio del Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria (Consortium of Bergamot of Reggio Calabria). They also have earned the distinction of Protected Designation of Origin for the region. Bergamotto lemon is most widely known as a flavoring in Earl Grey tea and for its essential oils, which are used in popular fragrances.
Like other citrus varieties, Bergamotto lemon contains high levels of vitamin C, potassium, vitamins B1, B2 and A. However, the Bergamotto lemon from Calabria is unique in its nutritional benefits. The citrus grown in this region has a unique concentration and quantity of polyphenols, which are antioxidant compounds found in the fruit. Polyphenols help promote good blood pressure, help protect against dementia, reduce inflammation, and work to help prevent cell damage from the sun and free radicals, along with a slew of other benefits. Researchers have found that the types of polyphenols present in the Calabrian Bergamotto lemon coupled with high concentrations, are not present in any other type of citrus. The inhabitants of the Calabrian region of southern Italy have been drinking the bitter juice for centuries as a “health tonic.”
Bergamotto lemon is used in a wide variety of applications, from culinary to pharmaceutical. The fruit is squeezed for its sour-bitter juice, and the rind is zested or pressed for its intensely aromatic oils. Bergamotto lemon juice can be used to make sorbet, gelato, or a marinade for fish or poultry. The Italian citrus variety can be used in dressings, desserts, juices or other applications where lemon or lime juice is used. Keep Bergamotto lemon refrigerated for up to a month in the crisper drawer; fruit left at room temperature will not keep for more than a week.
Bergamotto lemon oil was first used in the famous Eau de Cologne fragrance in 1709. The essential oil contains at least 350 distinct chemical components. 90% of the world’s bergamot oil comes from Calabrian Bergamotto lemon. The French are the largest importers of bergamot oil, where the citrus has been flavoring the hard candy Bergamotes de Nancy for over 150 years. As a flavoring agent, Bergamotto lemon is also used in the blend for Earl Grey tea and has since the late 19th century.
Calabrian Bergamotto lemon grows along the southernmost part of Italy’s “boot,” along the Ionian coast which covers the southern tip of the peninsula, in the Reggio Calabria province. It was first planted in this provence in 1750. There are several theories on the origin of the Bergamotto lemon. One theory is that the fruit was discovered by Christopher Columbus while in the Canary Islands, and was brought back to the city of Berga, in northeastern Spain. A more accepted theory is that the fruit is a result of a spontaneous mutation of a bitter orange or lime around the end of the 17th century, during a time of mild micro-climate weather. The production and distribution of the Bergamotto lemon is controlled by the Consortium of Bergamot of Reggio Calabria and most of the fruit is used for its essential oils, which are pressed from the skin. Bergamotto lemons are exported to countries throughout Europe and the United Kingdom.
Recipes that include Bergamotto Lemons. One is easiest, three is harder.
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