The bergamot is an intensely perfumed citrus fruit. Its skin is full of essential oils that give out floral, uplifting, crisp aromas. Its pulp is sour, acidic and slightly bitter.
Scratch the skin and a familiar scent erupts from the fine spray delivered by the finger's nick. It stirs a memory. But, unlike most fondly remembered aromas emanating from a food, it does not recall a meal eaten on holiday abroad, or the cooking of a grandparent. Once recognised, just how prized the essence of this fruit is becomes abundantly clear, for its oil forms the base of so many perfumes (at least one third of all fragrances contain bergamot) and its essence is one of the main ingredients in Earl Grey tea. Its predominant use is in the cosmetics industry rather than culinary. That familiar smell is almost certainly reminiscent of a perfume, or its one time wearer.
Even in Italy its use in cooking can hardly be described as profuse. Originating in Asia, Bergamot now thrives in Calabria on the Ionian coast, an area that now produces 80% of all bergamot. And yet the same floral aromas that make it so valuable in cosmetics lend themselves magnificently to the kitchen, where it goes particularly well with shellfish, such as langoustine, and a variety of fish and delicate cheeses, such as caciotta.
Bergamot first made itself known to us at the market in Milan in late 2009. We already knew of bergamot but this was a chance encounter that happily pre-empted any more rigorous pursuit that would have surely followed. Several crates quickly found their way to London, and Bergamot was formally introduced to the UK - as a fruit in its own right - by Natoora that same year. The reaction was a combination of delight and befuddlement. Virtually unknown to chefs, they nonetheless loved its floral aroma and delicate scent.
The aroma of Bergamot is at their most intense when the fruit is first picked. The character of the fruit diminishes with age. Our work with the Sergi family is our guarantee that we are the only importer of certified fresh bergamots.