Monday, October 24, 2011

Bergamot Orange

The Bergamot Orange "bergamia" is a fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon, and a pleasant fragrance. Genetic research into the ancestral origins of extant citrus cultivars recently matched the bergamot as a likely hybrid of Citrus limetta and bitter orange. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit. Citrus bergamot is native and commercially grown in Calabria (Italy), where more than 80% are found, and some in France, and in Ivory Coast for the essential oil, but not for juice consumption. Bergamot grows on small trees which blossom during the winter. The distinctive aroma of the bergamot is most commonly known for its use in Earl Grey tea, though the juice of the fruit has also been used in Calabrian indigenous medicine as an herbal remedy for malaria, and its essential oil is popular in aromatherapy applications.

The bergamot orange is unrelated to the herbs of the same name, Monarda didyma and Monarda fistulosa, which are in the mint family. The active ingredients in bergamot are neoeriocitrin, naringin, neohesperidin, ponceritin, melitidin, and brutelidin. Melitidin and brutelidin, only recently discovered, exist only in citrus bergamot, and exhibit statin-like properties. Citrus bergamia is not the same species as Citrus aurantum, which is commonly found in China. C. aurantum does not contain melitidin or brutelidin. The major active biological constituents in C. aurantum are flavonoids, especially hesperidin, naringin and alkaloids, mainly synephrine. Synephrine is not present in citrus bergamot.

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