|Scientific classification |
Genetic research into the ancestral origins of extant citrus cultivars found bergamot orange to be a probable hybrid of lemon and bitter orange. Extracts have been used to scent food, perfumes, and cosmetics. Use on the skin can increase photosensitivity, resulting in greater damage from sun exposure.
Citrus bergamia has also been classified as Citrus aurantium subsp. bergamia (i.e. a subspecies of bitter orange).
Citrus bergamia is sometimes confused with (but is not the same as):
Production is mostly limited to the Ionian Sea coastal areas of the province of Reggio di Calabria in Italy, to such an extent that it is a symbol of the entire city. Most of the bergamot comes from a short stretch of land there, where the temperature is favourable. The fruit is also produced in Argentina, Brazil, Algeria, the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, and South-East Asia where it has its roots.
Citrus bergamot is commercially grown in southern Calabria (province of Reggio), southern Italy. It is also grown in southern France and in Côte d'Ivoire for the essential oil and in Antalya in southern Turkey for its marmalade. The fruit is not generally grown for juice consumption. However, in Mauritius where it is grown on a small-scale basis, it is largely consumed as juice by the locals.
Adulteration with cheaper products such as oil of rosewood and bergamot mint has been a problem for consumers. To protect the reputation of their produce, the Italian government introduced tight controls, including testing and certificates of purity. The Stazione Sperimentale per le Industrie delle Essenze e dei Derivati dagli Agrumi (Experimental Station for Essential Oil and Citrus By-Products) located in Reggio di Calabria, was the quality control body for the essential oil Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria DOP. During World War II, Italy was unable to export to countries such as the Allied powers. Rival products from Brazil and Mexico came on to the market as a substitute, but these were produced from other citrus fruits such as sweet lime.
Food and drink
The fruit of the bergamot orange is edible.
Tea and other uses
An essence extracted from the aromatic skin of this sour fruit is used to flavour Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas, as well as confectionery (including Turkish delight ). It is often used to make marmalade, particularly in Italy. In Sweden and Norway, bergamot is a very common flavourant in snus, a smokeless tobacco product. Likewise, in dry nasal snuff, it is also a common aroma in traditional blends. Carpentierbe, a company based in San Giorgio Morgeto, makes a digestif liqueur derived from bergamot marketed under the name Liquore al Bergamotto.
Bergamot peel is one of the most common ingredients used in perfumery, prized for its ability to combine with an array of scents to form a bouquet of aromas which complement each other. Bergamot is a major component of the original Eau de Cologne composed by Farina at the beginning of the 18th century in Germany. The first record of bergamot oil as a fragrance ingredient was in 1714, to be found in the Farina Archive in Cologne.
In several patch test studies, application of some sources of bergamot oil directly to the skin of guinea pigs was shown to have a concentration-dependent phototoxic effect of increasing redness after exposure to ultraviolet light (due to the chemical bergapten, and possibly also citropten, bergamottin, geranial, and neral). This is a property shared by many other citrus fruits. Bergapten has also been implicated as a potassium channel blocker; in one case study, a patient who consumed four litres of Earl Grey tea per day (which contains bergamot essential oil as a flavouring) suffered muscle cramps.
Bergamot is also a source of bergamottin which, along with the chemically related compound 6',7'-dihydroxybergamottin, is believed to be responsible for grapefruit–drug interactions in which the consumption of the juice affects the metabolism of a variety of pharmaceutical drugs.
Used in cosmetics and perfume products, bergamot may cause skin irritation. In the past, psoralen extracted from bergamot oil has been used in tanning accelerators and sunscreens. Known to be photocarcinogenic since 1959, the substances remained in sunscreens until in 1995, contributing to many cases of malignant melanoma and death.
Possible health effects
As of 2017, clinical research conducted on bergamot oil has been of poor quality, with no conclusions about its possible health effects. Use on the skin can be unsafe, particularly for children and pregnant women. Potential side effects of drinking large amounts of bergamot oil can include convulsions. Consuming bergamot oil as a component of tea may cause muscle cramps or blurred vision, and its application to the skin may induce rashes. The juice of the fruit has been used in European folk medicine for various disorders.
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The bergamot orange is not edible and is grown only for its fragrant oil, although its peel is sometimes candied.
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The recipes known only to two members of the Wilson family in each generation since 1737, natural oils such as Bergamot, Attar of Roses, Jasmine and Sandalwood are added in precise measure to delight the nose.
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