All the Secrets of Bergamotto


The exclusive fruit from Reggio Calabria is making a lasting note in the hearts of the consumers

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Published: Mon 25 Apr 2022, 2:31 PM

No one knows exactly where it came from, how it came to be created, or the true origin of its name.

What do we know then about this mysterious and precious fruit?

Bergamotto looks like an orange, has the brilliant yellow colouring of a lemon, is incredibly aromatic, and it grows on a very narrow coastal strip of Reggio Calabria province. The tree is between three to four metres tall, the blossom is white and very highly scented. Although it is a member of the citrus family, it possesses certain characteristics which make it unique. Precisely this uniqueness has made Bergamotto an object of admiration, wonder, and fascination in every corner of the world. Its popularity is mainly due to its outer covering, and precisely in the golden essence extracted solely from the peel of the fruit: The famous 'Green Gold', the essential oil of Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria recognised worldwide for its incredible properties.

Despite its fame and its virtues, the special fruit is wrapped in legends: Some say it originally came from the Canary Islands or the Antilles, discovered by Christopher Columbus, while some scholars attribute its Italian origin to a Spanish Moor who sold a branch of the Bergamot tree to the noble Valentino family of Reggio Calabria. Although its ancient roots might be linked with Italy, the name seems to derive from 'beg-armundi', a Turkish term meaning 'prince’s pear': alluding to the similarity between the shape of the Bergamot and that of a pear.

What is certain is that it was at the court of the 'Sun King', Louis XIV that Bergamotto made its debut. A Sicilian gentleman, Francesco Procopio, presented himself at the royal palace in Versailles with some copper of a mysterious liquid that immediately delighted all who were present. The 'magic' fluid proved to have exceptional cleansing properties, offering a solution for the problems caused by a contemporary ban on the use of water for washing. The popularity of Bergamot increased further during the 18th century. The aromatic essence of Bergamot became the most valuable and sought-after ingredient in the creation of perfumes for an international clientele. Still today, the essential oil of Bergamot, is successfully used in cosmetics and all sorts of toiletries as a fragrance, appreciated worldwide.

In a short time, Bergamotto water also revealed many other beneficial properties. Thanks to the high quantity of vitamins contained, it is very effective in case of bone conditions, muscle weakness, and anemia. It is also an extraordinary sanitising and antioxidant, kind to the skin, and powerful anti-stress medicine, not to mention its value in cooking. Bergamotto, in fact, can be used successfully in any recipe which requires some form of citrus fruit, such as veal escalope, roast chicken, or baked fish but it is also ideal for dressing salads or to add contrast to rather sweet-tasting foods. It is then, the ingredient that aromatises the Earl Grey. Bergamotto also offers many possibilities in the field of patisserie, where the fruit is used for the world-famous Bergamotto sorbet, which provides the perfect interval between savoury and sweet courses.

The real secret of Bergamotto is hidden in its territory: 100 kilometers along the Ionian coast around Reggio, on the southernmost point of the boot of Italy, overlooking the Straits of Messina. It is an area characterised by a microclimate known as 'tropical moist temperature', and by a unique combination of daytime and night-time temperatures, the particular conformation of the landscape, wide valleys sliced, and quality of the soil.

It is not an accident that the only place the trees bear fruit so successfully is in the province of Reggio Calabria, ensuring the very highest quality of all the products deriving from Bergamotto. This is one of the reasons why in 2001, the DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) was granted to ‘Bergamot of Reggio Calabria — essential oil’. This decree contains the discipline for fruit cultivation, processes for essential oil extraction, and its marketing.

This year the Reggio Calabria, the Chamber of Commerce of Reggio Calabria, together with the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the UAE and the support of the Calabria Region, has launched a project to promote bergamot, in the context of the actions carried out to give visibility to Calabrian excellences on the UAE market. The project, which has seen and will see the organisation of many events dedicated to product promotion in the coming months, began concurrently with the twelfth Italian (Sustainable) Cuisine World Summit. During the events, Bergamotto has been the protagonist of delicious recipes such as the Sea bass in potato and lemon sauce, Reggio Calabria PDO Bergamotto gel, and sea lettuce, created by Chef Paolo Gramaglia or the sorbet by Chef Carbini, the Bergamotto granita with brioche, created by Master Guest Chef Pietro D’agostino as well as the Licorice and Bergamotto Scented Risotto from Reggio Calabria created by Chef Sara Preceruti, and even a Bergamotto beverage realised by Julian Biondi!

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