Bergamot (Monarda didyma)
Bergamot is a North American herb which is used for its flowers and leaves, both fresh and dried.
Bergamot has an overwhelming citrus flavour with warm, spicy tones. Some describe the flavour as a mix of spearmint, peppermint and oregano. The leaves have a stronger flavour than the flowers.
The aroma carries the same citrus notes.
Bergamot leaves and flowers make a delicious and attractive addition to salads (both green and fruit), custards, yoghurts, vegetable dishes, salsa, drinks and meat dishes featuring duck, chicken and pork. Native Indians use an infusion of bergamot leaves to make Oswego tea which is said to increase energy levels. Combine bergamot with apples, chicken, citrus fruit, duck, melons, pork, strawberries and tomatoes and marry with chives, dill, fennel, garlic, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme.
Plant bergamot by seed, cuttings or root division in Spring. It prefers rich, loose soil that is watered regularly and as it is a member of the mint family it is prone to spread, so is best in a pot. The plant grows to 1 metre with ovate, hairy leaves and red flowers. Pick leaves and flowers when fully open.
Bergamot is native to North America and its name is said to be inspired by its fragrance which is reminiscent of bergamot oranges. The North American Indians used bergamot in many herbal medicines.
The North American Indians not only used bergamot in Oswego tea to treat coughs, chest complaints, indigestion, insomnia, headaches, skin diseases and ulcers, but also in poultices and mouthwashes.
Facts about Bergamot
The genus ‘monarda’ was named after the Spanish botanist Nicolas Monardes who wrote a book in 1574 called ‘Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Founde Worlde’.
Commonly Asked Questions
Why is bergamot also called bee balm?
Bergamot is sometimes referred to as bee balm because the flowers attract bees, hummingbirds and other pollinating insects.