Bergamot orange (botanical name Citrus bergamia) is an aromatic fruits similar in size to an orange, while its yellow hue is akin to that of a lemon. Genetic studies undertaken to determine the forerunners of the existing citrus cultivars have found that bergamot orange is possibly a hybrid of two species, namely Citrus aurantium and Citrus limetta.
At a first glance, bergamot orange appears to be similar to a lemon. These fruits have a partially ovate shape, with a smooth and gritty surface similar to that of a lemon. The flesh of bergamot orange is yellowish having the same typical soft pith as of a lemon. Their closeness to orange is evident from their bitter orange savour as well as the fragrant, essential oil enclosed by the fruit's peel.
The flesh of bergamot orange is aromatic that contains the recognizable traits of bergamot as well as lemon, which are evident as soon as the fruit is cut. The flavour of this fruit is remarkably aromatic, tart and acidic, which make bergamot orange inappropriate for consuming fresh and raw, unlike many other citrus fruits, including orange.
The most initial records pertaining to bergamot orange date back to 1708. This fruit was a very common orange cultivar in and around the Mediterranean region, particularly in Italy, where this species was discovered first in the form of a seedling. Currently, Italy has the highest bergamot orange production compared to any other place across the globe.
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In fact, bergamot orange is primarily cultivated for its peel, which is loaded with valuable essential oils. Commercial production of this fruit is mainly confined to a place in Italy called Calabria, because this is the only place growing this fruit, whose peel does not enclose different qualities or varieties of the essential oils.
Bergamot oranges are found growing on small trees that are indigenous to Asia. However, now the species has been naturalized in various other parts of the world and can be grown in places having warmer climatic conditions like Italy, France, Brazil and even the Ivory Coast.
Bergamot orange possesses a pleasing and citrus-like aroma and is frequently utilized in the form of an herbal remedy, especially in aromatherapy, in the form of a digestive aid and also it is used in teas.
Bergamot oranges appear on fairly small trees, which usually grow up to a height of anything between 20 feet and 30 feet (about six to nine meters). Plants of this species usually grow in places that do not freeze frequently and, hence, the lion's share of the fruits is grown in Italy.
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Often people mistake the bergamot orange for the wild bergamot, especially the flower, which is generally called bergamot (a herb), but they are not related in any manner whatsoever.
It is believed that bergamot was introduced into Italy by the Venetian traders, who carried the species to the country around the 1700s and the Venetian traders may have acquired the species from the Arab traders.
The earliest reliable date of the herb being cultivated is 1750, when a person called Niccolo Parisi planted bergamot orange in Calabria for the first time in 1750. Being a trader, Parisi was likely to have obtained the seeds or the tree in Venice and carried them to Calabria.
However, it seems that no one has tried to find out one thing. That is how bergamot oranges made their way into China by the beginning of the 1800s.
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There are several stories relating to some unidentified person in China chancing upon a tea, which later came to be known as Earl Grey Tea, flavoured with bergamot oranges as early as 1800s. In the 1830s, this tea was carried to England. According to one story, this tea has derived its name from the Earl of Grey (1764-1845).
According to one explanation, the tea discovered in China was possibly not flavoured using bergamot oranges. Similar, to Seville oranges, bergamot is a type of "Sour orange"(botanical name Citrus aurantium). People in China have been cultivating this variety of oranges as early as 300 B.C. or even before and the Chinese certainly used another variety of oranges to flavour the tea.
It is believed that bergamot orange was not employed to add essence to teas till people started blending it in Europe. In fact, bergamot orange oil was procurable in Europe at that time.
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Findings of several scientific studies have revealed that bergamot is effective in lowering the levels of total cholesterol in the bloodstream of people who participated in these studies. In addition, this herb also lowers the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol levels. In fact, LDL is responsible for several heart diseases.
At the same time, this herb also helped to increase the levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol, which is beneficial and offers many defensive benefits.
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It is believed that bergamot acts by means of blocking cholesterol production in our liver. When there is an absence of cholesterol, the liver will possibly forced to locate cholesterol, which is deposited in the bloodstream. Bergamot contains a number of chemical compounds, which are same as the commercially available chemicals that are prescribed to people with high levels of overall cholesterol.
It has been found that bergamot is loaded with polyphenols, such as brutelidin and metilidin. These two polyphenols work directly to slow down cholesterol biosynthesis. The study also found that bergamot orange was effective in lowering the levels of triglycerides in the participants.
There are several other therapeutic uses of bergamot orange. This herb is used in conjunction with ultra-violet (UV) light therapy for tumours infected by fungus below the skin. Bergamot orange is also used as a preventive medication against lice as well as other parasites. It is also used with UV light for treating psoriasis.
Bergamot orange is widely employed in skin care products like soaps, lotions, creams, perfumes and suntan oils. This herb is used for treating psoriasis and also in the form of an antiseptic for treating infections as well as reducing inflammation. In addition, bergamot orange is employed for treating a rare form of skin cancer called mycosis fungoides.
This herb also enhances the sensitivity of the skin to sunlight and, hence, you should not use bergamot orange together with other medicines that also enhance sunlight sensitivity. This combination may result in acute rashes and sunburn as well as blisters. People who are using bergamot orange should essentially wear protective clothing and also use sunscreen in case they plan to spend some time in direct sunlight.
The rind or peel of bergamot orange is also used in perfumery, as it possesses the aptitude to blend well with an assortment of fragrances to develop into an agglomeration of aromas that go well with each other. Perfumes used by about one in every three men and one in every two women enclose bergamot essential oil.
Bergamot also forms an important element of the original Eau De Cologne, which was created by Farina during the early 18th century in Germany. The first ever document of using bergamot oil in the form of an ingredient in manufacturing perfume dates back to 1714.
This document is presently kept in the Cologne-based Farina Archive. About 100 bergamot oranges usually produce approximately 3 oz or 85 grams of bergamot essential oil.
As discussed earlier, several skin care lotions contain bergamot oil. Earlier, a substance extracted from bergamot oil and called psoralen was traditionally used for tanning sunscreens and accelerators. Although people were aware since 1959 that these substances were photo carcinogenic, they still used them in sunscreens.
It is only as late as 1995 that the use of these substances were prohibited in sunscreens. In fact, though people knew that these substances were photo carcinogenic, it took several years to ban their usage, in the mean time causing numerous cases of malignant melanoma and even death.
Currently psoralen is only employed as a part of PUVA therapy (psoralen + UVA treatment ) for treating specific skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, vitiligo, mycosis fungoides, large-plaque parapsoriasis and others.
Although bergamot oranges have a number of culinary uses, it requires some imagination to use them in cooking, as they have an extremely bitter and sour flavour. However, the fragrance of bergamot oranges is an obvious suggestion that it is possible to use them for infusing enrichments.
The rind as well as the juice extracted from bergamot oranges is employed for making syrups, cocktails, flavoured sugars or salts and jams.
In addition, the zest and the juice can also be used to add essence to cakes, cookies, custards and yogurts. In fact, bergamot oranges go extremely well with avocado, other citrus fruits, ricotta, seafood, mild salad greens as well as herbs like basil, dill and tarragon. Provided you store them in a refrigerator, bergamot oranges usually keep well for about two weeks.
The aromatic extract of bergamot orange rind is employed for flavouring Earl Grey as well as Lady Grey teas. In addition, this extract is also used in various confectionery products, counting the Turkish delight.
Often, this extract is employed to prepare marmalade, especially in Italy. People in Norway and Sweden extensively use bergamot in the form of a flavouring agent in snus - a tobacco product that does not produce any smoke. Similarly, it is also used in the form of a regular aroma in conventional blends in the manufacture of dry nasal snuff.
A San Giorgio Morgeto based company located close to Reggio Calabria and called Carpentierbe produces a digestive liqueur obtained from bergamot orange which is sold under the brand name Liquore al Bergamotto.
Bergamot orange is indigenous to South Asia and was transported to Italy, where the fruit flourished. Currently, bergamot oranges are harvested for commercial as well as therapeutic purposes. While the size of this fruit is similar to that of an orange, its yellow hue is akin to that of a lemon. The juice of bergamot orange is extremely bitter and sour.
This makes it very difficult to drink the juice fresh and obtain the health benefits offered by it. The juice is often consumed in the form of an extract supplement.
Bergamot orange is used for treating high blood cholesterol, but there is no standard dosage of this herb for this therapeutic purpose. However, the extract is generally taken in two to four 500 mg in capsule form on an empty stomach usually once or two times daily for a period of one month. Subsequently, one bergamot orange extract capsule is taken to sustain the level of the herb in the bloodstream.
On the other hand, the orange bergamot essential oil dosage is subject to a number of factors, including the age, health and other conditions of the user. While using the essential oil, it is advisable that you strictly follow the recommendations printed on the product label.
Although bergamot oil as well as zest (the peel of the fruit used in the flavourings agent) is safe for use by nearly all people, they both these should always be used in very small quantities while flavouring foods. Generally, they are used in the form of a citrus flavouring agent in puddings and gelatins.