What is a Bergamot?


During citrus season in France, if you’re lucky, you’ll run across something called a bergamot. They’re not brilliant yellow like regular lemons, but a sort of orangey color, and when split open, they’re quite juicy and the flavor is much sweeter than regular lemons. In fact, they often call them citrons doux, which translates to “sweet lemons.”

Last year when I was making bergamot marmalade from them, which has become everyone’s new favorite marmalade around me, I was reading a little more about bergamots and some people who don’t live in France said that they tried using bergamots in various things and the flavor was so balmy and overwhelming they were hard to enjoy.

Rachel Saunders, in The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, said that although bergamot marmalade was one of their most popular flavors, called the flavor on its own “completely overpowering and unpalatable.”


Scratching my head, when I was at the natural foods store last week, where I like to prowl for unusual citrus, just next to the regular bergamots I saw something I’ve never seen in France before: a box of yellow round fruits labeled bergamotto, from Italy. Much rounder and firmer, when split open (on the right), the pulp and juice were greenish and yes – tasted a bit challenging.

Determined to figure out what was going on, I did a bit of sleuthing around and found out that a true bergamot (citrus bergamia risso) is likely a derivation of a sour orange, thus the intense acidity. The fruit is valued in the perfume industry because the rind contains intensely flavored oils that have an elusive, yet slightly mesmerizing quality. And if you’re wondered what that unusual ingredient in your cup of Earl Grey tea was, that’s bergamot essential oil. They’re one of those fruits that you take a sniff of and are something you perhaps never smelled anything like it, but aren’t sure how you would use it. I made a vinaigrette with mine as a base, in place of the vinegar, and it was pretty delicious and I wonder if any readers have any other thoughts for using them?


In France what are called bergamots, shown above, are also called citron beldi or limonette de Marrakech or Moroccan limetta elsewhere, and shipped from Tunisia or Morocco. Citrus limetta is a species of citrus often referred to as sweet lemons or sweet limes. According to the University of California horticultural website, Citrus limetta Risso (or what are called bergamots in France) “are sometimes incorrectly referred to as bergamots.” Mystery solved!

Related Links and Recipes

Citrus Limetta Risso (University of California, Riverside)

Earl Grey Tea (BBC)

Bergamot orange (Wikipedia)

What gives Earl Grey tea its taste? (Boston Globe)

Bergamot orange versus Bergamot herb (The Epicentre)

Bergamot Marmalade

Citron Limetta (Wikipedia)

Candied Citron

Seville Orange Marmalade

Tarte au Citron

Beguiling bergamot (San Francisco magazine)

Citrus Oils

Lemon Curd

Bergamot Orange Custard Cups (Hungry Cravings)

Whole Lemon Bars


Bergamot Madeleines (Chez Pim)

Glazed Candied Citron

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook (Amazon)

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  • March 6, 2011 12:20pm

    The one on the right definitely looks like sweet limes we use mainly in a sweet and spicy drink with black salt in India. Sometimes it is mixed half and half with orange juice and regular salt for a drink that was called Ganga-Yamuna- named after two rivers.
    Have never seen a bergamot before, looks a lot like the orange.

  • Vicky
    March 6, 2011 1:33pm

    Well…I became even more confused about bergamots yesterday: I was at the local Asian superstore, and saw a package of frozen lime leaves for sale. I scooped it up but – this being Canada – noticed that they had translated lime leaves as ‘feuilles de bergamot’…whereas I had always thought that kaffir limes were ‘cumbava’ in French. But, maybe here in Canada we use ‘bergamot’ for ‘cumbava’…and goodness knows what we use for citrus limetta rosso!!!!

  • March 6, 2011 1:45pm
    David Lebovitz

    Vicky: Things often get lost in translation and a few years back Sichuan pepper was banned in the US, but you could find it in Asian markets where it was labeled by its latin name. Also “bitter almonds” will sometimes be called something else in Chinese herbalists.

    What’s funny is sometimes I’ll write about things in France, and readers will try to correct me, but the photos don’t lie.

    Magpies: That’s interesting because the flavor of the true bergamot is pretty intense, but I actually like it quite a bit. I read a while back about a fellow who put one – just one – in a batch of marmalade (along with a bunch of other citrus fruits) and said the whole batch was way too strong for him.

  • March 6, 2011 2:34pm

    I have tried for a long time to try bergamot on the hoof, so to speak and have yet to do so. However, I have Bergamot essence and use it frequently as I do petitgrain (a scent/flavoring made from green leaves and stems). They add an intense perfume to sauces and sweets as well as a hint of bitterness which can be great in sweet creamy rich things. I used it in chocolate mousse and cream for lentil chili recently… trying it with an antique bouillabaisse recipe next. I think they are fabulous when used sparingly but can overpower very quickly!

  • March 6, 2011 2:35pm

    Well this sure is a mystery solved! I was recently reading Rachel’s book and scratching my head about bergamots. I doubt I’ll be able to find them very easily on the East Coast, but their mystery has been cleared up a little bit. I’ll just have to quietly lament not having access; I absolutely love Earl Grey … and strong flavors … and I’m pretty sure I’d dig real bergamot.

  • Not to add to the confusion, but the leaves and flowers of the herb called Bee Balm – particularly the wild version – are sometimes called bergamot. The fragrance is very similar…

    They make a good herbal tea, but (obviously) not a marmalade!

  • March 6, 2011 3:08pm

    I love anything that looks like a lemon, but the closest I’ve come to a Bergamot is La Bergamot(e) Cafe in NY and they didn’t serve a single item with this lovely looking citrus bien sur. A vinaigrette sounds like a terrific idea David – must try it whilst in Paris..

    Beautifully tempting jam book by Rachel Saunders.
    Surely a lush jam book is lurking up your sleeve since you won’t give us your secret regime..?

  • Shirley@kokken69
    March 6, 2011 3:15pm

    My familiarity with bergamot is only limited to the essential oils I use for aroma therapy. I love the aroma and have always wondered what it tastes like. I imagine it to taste like a more aggressive and spicy version of Yuzu… But that was only my imagination. I guess I would never know unless I tried it… But don’t think this would be possible in Singapore though.

  • lis
    March 6, 2011 3:26pm

    This appears to be what we call a, “Lima Limon” here, in Peru. I haven’t quite figured out what to do with them; they are floral and a bit sweet. The Peruvians have also not been much help so, I put several in a bowl, next to my bed–so fragrant and lovely! I also like them to flavor cool water, in the summertime!

  • jeannie
    March 6, 2011 3:54pm

    I found your post a little confusing. The caption of the picture with the two citrus fruits cut open says the one on the left is the Italian bergamotto? It looks quite orange while the fruit on the right looks greener and more like a lemon. Am I misunderstanding something?

    Nope, I swapped the photo with another one so they got reversed. All fixed now! -dl

  • March 6, 2011 4:04pm

    I recently tasted a marmalade made with bergamot, not sure if it was a “true” one, and I really disliked it. Not knowing what it was I detected this overpowering flavor I couldn’t pinpoint and found extremely unappealing.

    Maybe a marmalade made with less rind will work better? Or one made with just a touch of bergamot would be more interesting?

    Somehow I have never seen one in my local grocery stores, maybe the farmers’ market in San Rafael has a vendor who sell them.

  • Mahsa Taheran
    March 6, 2011 4:54pm

    These are both popular in Iran. Bergamot is called toranj in Farsi, and the other one is sweet lemon. Also, we use another citrus fruit called balang in Farsi or Citrus Medica Cedrata, which is close to bergamot. Balang is used to make a tasty popular jam.

  • March 6, 2011 5:24pm

    I happen to love the flavor of bergamot. I am addicted to Earl Grey tea made with real oil of bergamot (oil extracted from the bergamot rind and not the so-called “natural bergamot flavouring”). I also love “Bergamotto” eau de toilette. On visits to Venice, I always make sure to buy a bottle in a speziaria in Santa Croce.

    I remember reading that true Italian Bergamotto has a special flavor. I always wondered what makes it so unique.

  • March 6, 2011 5:27pm

    David, maybe you can help me with how to pronounce Bergamot? I always assumed the T was silent, but then I’ve been hearing other people pronounce it with the T. At any rate, these look awesome, and hopefully I’ll stumble upon some someday!

  • March 6, 2011 5:38pm

    When we lived in the Bahamas, sour oranges grew wild. Sour was a good description and they were mostly used for flavoring fresh conch salads. You’ve got me wondering if the Bahamian sour orange is a cousin of the bergamot.

  • March 6, 2011 6:14pm

    Interesting post. I have no experience with bergamots, but from what I’ve read always thought of them as a sour Meyer lemon. I just checked out the bergamot entry in the Oxford Companion to Food and their take is “the bergamot orange is not edible and is grown only for its fragrant oil, though its peel is sometimes candied.”

    You’ve got me curious now; I’ll have to see if I can find a bergamot. I like the idea of the vinaigrette, and the candied peel is intriguing.

  • Ellen
    March 6, 2011 6:14pm

    And it is what makes Earl Gray tea so delicious.

  • Susan
    March 6, 2011 6:18pm

    Our neighbor has what I believed to be a lemon tree, right next to our fence. I was making a couple jars of apricot jam last week and had my husband snag one of the lemons so I could use some of the juice for my jam. Though bright yellow outside, I thought it felt awfully firm, and was smoother skinned and smallish, so I thought maybe it was a Meyer lemon (though they aren’t usually as firm as this was). When I cut it open, the pulp was green..almost like a lime! I thought maybe the fruit was under ripe, but used it anyway because it was all I had and needed it now.. It sure was sour by itself, though. I’d never run into a green pulp lemon before, so I figured I’d wait a month or so before I snagged any more! I wonder if it’s the one you showed us here or if it is an underripe lemon?

  • Cyndy
    March 6, 2011 6:20pm

    I wonder what kind of “lemonade” these would make,or, taking it a step further, the ever popular Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half ginger ale). Also, what about a bergamot martini similar to lemon drop martini?

  • March 6, 2011 6:34pm
    David Lebovitz

    Susan: The greenish bergamot was labeled bergamot on the box (yes, I flipped it around to check!) If you live near a university or cooperative extension, you might want to bring one in to ask them. Also the University of California at Riverside website that I linked to in the post is pretty thorough and you might find more answers poking around there.

    Mahsa: You must have so many lovely citrus varieties in Iran. I was thinking of making a visit there next year and hope things calm down so I can make it..

  • March 6, 2011 6:35pm

    As one other reader mentioned here, what you call Citrus Limetta seems to be what we call sweet lime (or Musambi) in India. It is sweet, very mildly acidic but without tartness. We usually juice them and have them with black salt and pepper during summer.
    What I’m interested in knowing is whether you can make marmalade with sweet limes?

  • Rosemarie Delaney
    March 6, 2011 6:36pm

    I live in Cyprus. Bergamots are in season now and are quite large; I use 4 to make your marmalade recipe.
    I’ve always been hopeless at getting marmalade just right. It always ends up either too runny or overcooked and chewy. Anyway, with your recipe I got a great set, but I prefer less peel as it really does have a very strong aromatic flavour. Feeling emboldened I decided to experiment. I followed the recipe again, but removed all the peel from the fruit and popped only half of it into a little cheesescloth bag and hung it from the pan handle so it was immersed in the fruit and sugar mixture. The result was a clear, softly aromatic marmalade set to perfection. It’s a pity we don’t get to see this fruit in the shops here. I believe they are treasured by the Cypriots for making spoon sweets or “Glyko”. In this case only the skins are used and the flesh discarded. In my village I am considered the crazy Englishwoman for using bergamot for jam.

  • March 6, 2011 6:41pm
    David Lebovitz

    Aparna: I think most citrus can be made into marmalade, provided it’s not overtly bitter. If so, sometimes repeated blanching(s) reduce the bitterness. But sweet limes should work well.

    Rosemarie: I was interested in reading in Rachel’s book her recipe for Bergamot marmalade too, which she makes by a different process than I do. btw: a good tip if you’re having trouble getting jam or marmalade to set is to add a pour of apple juice or grate a pectin-rich apple into the brew.

  • Maria Vlachou
    March 6, 2011 6:45pm

    We cut the outside part in pieces, then boil it and by changing the water several tims, they are less ald less bitter. Then we add sugar, boil again and serve it as a desert. It is a traditional desert in Northern Greece.

  • Maria Vlachou
    March 6, 2011 6:46pm

    Another “trick” is to cut in very tiny pieces and put them in brandy. Half a spoon gives an excellent taste to cakes and cookies.

  • March 6, 2011 6:54pm

    Thanks for this post, David! I was pouring over Rachel’s beautiful book yesterday and wondered what a bergamot was as I had only seen the ingredient listed on my Earl Grey box! I was planning on researching it today, but you saved me the trouble!

  • March 6, 2011 6:57pm

    One of my favorite teas has a strong bergamot flavor to it, but I had no idea that bergamot was a citrus fruit. I guess I assumed it was an herb or something. Thanks for setting me straight.

  • Joni
    March 6, 2011 7:03pm

    My husband and son are citrus lovers, so I usually pick up whatever is in at Central Market. They loved the light green fruits labled “Sweet Limes” and peeled them ate ate them like oranges.
    Thanks for your always interestings posts, great site, and delicious recipes.

  • March 6, 2011 7:07pm

    Very interesting. Seems like one wouldn’t necessarily want to sub one for the other. And here’s a third kind: bee balm or wild bergamot–an herb. I use it to make Bergamo(t)jitos: http://pastrychefonline.com/blog/2009/06/28/bergamojito/

    Something to sip on while you’re making bergamot marmelade!

  • March 6, 2011 7:09pm

    What’s very popular here in Bombay are sweet limes. They look a lot like your photograph, except that they that nipple (for lack of a better word). They are available all year round, and are very popular for juicing. I’d say they equal, if not outdo the orange juice sales in fresh fruit juice shops. It’s also delicious when mixed with orange juice. They rind isn’t all that fragrant, so I don’t think they’d make good jams. You should most definitely try it if you ever find yourself in Asia. That, and sugarcane juice… aaag SO good. And it’s even better when a piece of fresh ginger is crushed along with it.

  • March 6, 2011 7:10pm

    Before this article I had no idea what a bergamot was; I only know it as the name/scent of a favorite candle I love to use. We’re lucky to get key limes in Denver occasionally and Meyer lemons only if friends send us some so I’m curious now but don’t hold much hope that this is a citrus I’m likely to find. I’ll just enjoy everyone else adventures from afar!

  • March 6, 2011 7:11pm

    correction: except that they don’t have that nipple*

  • March 6, 2011 7:15pm

    When I saw the title of the story I thought it would be about an herb! Bergamot is a tall herb with reddish flowers that can look quite nice in a perennial garden. I believe the dried leaves are also the bergamot found in Earl Grey tea, so Allyson’s comment is actually on the right track. There is a pic/info on this at http://www.ageless.co.za/herb-bergamot.htm should you want to take a look. The herb plant doesn’t set any fruit citrus or otherwise; at least I’ve never seen this anyway.

    I’ve actually never come across the citrus bergamot. Wonder way two totally different items have the same name?

  • March 6, 2011 7:24pm

    When I was last in Paris I picked up a wonderful scent from Annick Goutal called Mandragore Pourpre and one of the main ingredients is Bergamot. What a great fruity/spicy smell. I guess it is no wonder I was attracted to it since Earl Grey Tea is also a favorite.

  • Sue VT
    March 6, 2011 7:45pm

    Thank you, David – that explains a lot. The ones that I bought from Natoora (a very good fresh food store, mail order, in London UK) were lovely but so overpowering – I think you could have strained out the peel ( chopped in an fp after 2 hours whole fruit cooking) to make a jelly marmalade but much too bitter to leave in. However, I will experiment again next year. I made a cedro paste from a Sicilan recipe a couple of years ago – the sort they use for filling pastries – and that was lovely!

    Thanks for all the great posts and the books.

  • March 6, 2011 7:52pm

    A little more info on “Wild Bergamot.” (not a plug, but this is excerpted from one of my books)

    Monarda fistulosa: Wild Bergamot — has a lovely pinkish lavender flower and is about 18-24” tall. The cultivar, Oregano de la Sierra (Monarda fistulosa menthaefolia) is used as a seasoning for soft, fresh cheeses and for strong-flavored meats, such as game or young goat (cabrito). It is sometimes listed as Monarda menthaefolia.

    Culinary Uses
    Dried leaves in teas. Some books will tell you to use Monarda flowers. I suspect that tastes in teas have changed since that recommendation first appeared in print. If any of the authors of those texts had bothered to taste these flowers, they would have discovered a strong, warm oregano-like flavor, with an accompanying numbness of the tongue (something like that caused by Szechuan Peppercorns — which see).
    These flowers are better used for seasoning and garnishes. You could eat an entire flower, but it would probably over-power anything else in the meal. Better to treat these aromatic explosions as you would the Bay Leaves on a pâté or the Dried Chiles in a Chinese stir-fry — look, enjoy their savor, but leave them on the plate! I have read that the flowers can be crystallized — but can’t think of a dish that would benefit from a sugar-coated blast of Carvacrol andThymol.
    An obvious way to side-step this domineering tendency is to limit the quantity of Monarda that actually reaches the plate. Bouquet garni, especially using leaves rather than flowers, were invented for this purpose — and if you wished to flavor a hearty soup with Monarda, that would be the solution.
    Using Monarda as a garnish, try sprinkling a few petals (tubular flowers — the familiar pompon is not actually a flower, but a radiating mass of these individual flowers) on a savory beef consommé, or on top of a grilled tomato. They could also be used in salads (in limited quantities, of course) or to garnish roasted meats sauced with rich reductions of stock and wine.
    Fresh leaves might make an interesting garnish for tall drinks — a Bloody Mary made with habanero-infused Vodka comes to mind. Certainly, no one would complain about the over-assertiveness of the Wild Bergamot!

  • Jean Marie
    March 6, 2011 8:02pm

    The bergamot orange (used in Earl Grey tea) is unrelated to the herb bergamot which is also known as bee balm. The herb is a member of the Mondara family of mints. I have never seen a real bergamot fruit and am now intrigued. Beautiful photos, David!

  • March 6, 2011 8:16pm

    I’ve used the zest to make ice cream- it is quite lovely- but I’ve never found a use for the fruit.

  • Rosemarie Delaney
    March 6, 2011 8:34pm

    Thank you David on the tip for getting jam/marmalade to set. Hello Maria from Greece. I love the traditional sweets, especially for bergamot, but such a long process. Worth the effort though. Do you chop the glyko and put it in cakes, like we use candied peel?

    I also have tried fresh squeezed bergamot juice. Cyprus bergamots don’t seem that sour to me (certainly not acid like lemon).
    Has anybody tried Sweet Lemons. When ripe the flesh is reddish and you just eat them like oranges. I think I’m in love with Citrus.

  • lainie
    March 6, 2011 8:50pm

    We were getting the fruit on the left – labeled by our produce company as Bergamot Oranges – and I was using the zest in shortbread but couldn’t find a very good use for the juice which IS highly acidic and sort of bland at the same time (!) I juiced a bunch of fruit and gave it to our bar to see if they could concoct anything with it and one of our bartenders came up with a drink that combines bourbon, bergamot juice, & orange bitters. . it is astoundingly good. . .our best selling cocktail right now. I have made a bergamot marmalade in the past but mixed the bergamot in with meyer lemons to balance the flavor. It was delicious.

  • March 6, 2011 8:58pm

    What a perfectly timely post! I was just struggling to explain the existence of these juicy devils to some friends last night.

  • samj530
    March 6, 2011 8:58pm

    For any Californians, try Lowe’s Garden Center. I work at the Yuba City location & we are carrying true Bergamot trees. They are only $25 for 5 gallon. They are grown by Four Winds Nursery in Williams, CA. This way you can have some for your own marmalade making & so can neighbors & friends!

  • samj530
    March 6, 2011 9:01pm

    BTW, I use the juice in lemon bars (instead of the lemons). They are great :)

  • zee
    March 6, 2011 9:13pm

    In Iran, the sweet lime is believed to cure everything from the common cold to diabetes. I’ve done a test and it will bring blood sugar right down in a few minutes. To my mind it has the scent of old-fashioned lemon custard ice cream, but the juice has a strange taste that is both bland and metallic. The leaves have the most beautiful scent.

  • March 6, 2011 9:16pm

    Have been sort of addicted to Earl Grey tea…seems like forever…no doubt due to the subtle, but intoxicating, bergamot. When my daughter was studying in Italy a few years ago and we had the good fortune to visit her, we found little bottles of bergamot fragrance in one of the tucked-away parfumeries. So…the two of us, can from time to time be literally surrounded by bergamot. Obssessive, no doubt. Not long ago, I found a California company that stocks fresh bergamot oranges and ordered some. (I wish I’d been more careful about recording the name, but can’t seem to find it now.) More perishable than other citrus so I had to quickly put them to use. Bergamot vinaigrette with fresh thyme; a Majorcan lemon-almond cake (the bergamot added a new dimension); bergamot madeleines; roast chicken with herbs and bergamot slices. June Taylor http://www.junetaylorjams.com/index.htm makes good bergamot marmalade, plus other beautiful jams, conserves, etc. (totally unrelated, but her jarred mincemeat is to die for.)

  • Morten
    March 6, 2011 9:22pm

    On the subject of fruits in France..

    When I was in St Paul de Vence, or something, a few years ago, I came across a little fruit sold by street vendor. It was a smallish, orangy/light brown fruit sold still on the twig. I cannot remember if its skin was hard (like a lichi), but i’m leaning towards hard. Atleast it as peeled before eating, revealing a flesh, which was yet again something like lichi. The taste, which I dont remember much of, was sweet. This was in the beginning of may, for any seasonality junkies out there who might be able to help :)

  • Elizabeth
    March 6, 2011 9:36pm

    I was at UC Riverside for many years as a student and staff; they hold a large citrus sampling event every year.

    I can thank them for my ability to identify a true bergamot but still haven’t figured out how I thought Buddha’s Fingers were a variety of lemon rather than a citron. That odd looking fruit was one of the most popular displays every year.

    Fortunately you are around to fill in the gaps in my education.

  • Sara
    March 6, 2011 10:28pm

    I discovered fresh bergamots when our produce guys sent some to me. Intense they are! The flavor and aroma are so amazing though! I used the zest(gently!) to flavor panna cotta and served it with a bunch of different citrus (meyer lemons, cara cara oranges, oro blanco grapefruit) and it was such a refreshing dessert.

    I frequently make limoncello and bet bergamotcello would be killer in cocktails.

  • niche
    March 6, 2011 10:41pm

    its so interesting to read about different cultures and languages using the same name for different things. I just learned from my parents that in different parts of China, sweet potatoes (and yams) are called completely different things.

    I love earl gray tea but never associated bergamot with a citrus.

  • March 6, 2011 11:28pm

    I loved reading about this fruit – I had no idea what it looked like. I do love it in Earl Grey tea, but also, it’s one of my favorite essential oils and my yoga instructor does aromatherapy with it during Savasana.

  • March 6, 2011 11:45pm

    I’ve been looking into the bergamot in Earl Grey question–David is correct in saying it is the citrus bergamot that is in the Earl Grey tea, not the herb bergamot, as I thought. Oddly enough, bergamot leaves can be used in herbal teas though. According to one source they are also used in preparing oil of thyme, but not in preparing oil of bergamot (which is readied using the citrus type). I don’t know why two completely different ingredients have the same name!

  • Alexia Katz
    March 7, 2011 12:38am

    So, are they utterly unavailable on the East Coast? Now I am totally fixated on them!! MUST TRY ONE!!!

  • March 7, 2011 12:52am

    regarding jam or marmalade made from pectin-poor fruit:
    I have learned to add a bit of natural pectin to jam or marmalade. I buy it in natural food stores, but have seen it also in regular grocery stores here. I like it because it does not alter taste or appearance of marmalades or jams.

  • March 7, 2011 1:17am

    It is citrus planting season where we live and I wanted to get one more tree. Now I know what to get– a bergamot. Thank you! I look forward to trying the bergamot marmalade. that sounds dreamy…

  • March 7, 2011 1:21am

    These are limas in Mexico. We eat them straight like oranges, when they are sweet, And make a drink like lemonade. They are perfumey and fragrant. The US has finally approved imports from Mexico, so they should be showing up in supermarkets soon, At least in Mexican neighborhoods…

  • March 7, 2011 1:26am

    I actually use a little of the zest in your pop-over recipe (which I seem to make every weekend for breakfast, tho not always with bergamot)! I’ve also used the juice (in a smaller ratio) in bundt cakes and pound cakes recipes instead of lemon juice.

  • Carol Evans
    March 7, 2011 1:34am

    Are these lemons anything like the Meyer Lemons, which have a slight orange flavor and the lemons are larger than regular lemons? They make wonderful pies. I grew a tree in a pot a couple of years ago, and actually had quite a few Meyers. I just saw a tree at our annual garden show here in Nashville two days ago, and it was loaded with huge Meyer Lemons. I bought my first ones in south Texas many years ago. Just curious?

  • March 7, 2011 2:35am

    Thanks for this article, David. I’ve often wondered just what a bergamot exactly is – usually while drinking my Earl Grey tea, but have never really bothered to find out. They are not something that is easily found here in Australia.

  • Sesi
    March 7, 2011 3:22am

    Hi David!
    Here in Greece we make a sort of candied fruit out of it. Funny this post today, as I just returned from my mother-in-law’s house, who was making just this sweet as we were there. You just take the yellow part of the fruit, put it with sugar to a boil and then store it in sterilized vases, sort of like marmalade, but not a marmalade. Her house was smelling of bergamonts, it was mesmerizing. Really intense, but not overwhelming. If you are interested in it, I can ask for the recipe.

    We use to eat this sort of sweet in the afternoon, after the midday nap, with Greek coffee on the side (mocha coffee) and a glass of cold water. We make this sweet with all sorts of fruits and even vegetables: grapes, cherries, watermelon, walnuts (when they are still green), aubergines, tomatoes. But the most popular one is made with cherries or sour cherries. You can eat it plain, or mixed with yoghurt, or you can even use it to decorate cakes or creams. I haven’t read the comments so far, so, sorry if any Greeks already mentioned this.

  • March 7, 2011 4:00am
  • Linda
    March 7, 2011 5:36am

    I was a little confused at first reading the title and then looking at the picture, as I was expecting a “poire bergamote” – ‘bergamote’ pear.

  • Maureen Kennedy
    March 7, 2011 5:52am

    Being a tea drinker, I had to check out the bergamot sorbet at lunch at either Oliveto or Plum in Oakland recently. Completely knocked my socks off. Time to head to Berkeley Bowl……..

  • March 7, 2011 6:51am

    I love learning something new! Your post caught my eye because bergamot is my favorite essence oil for aromatherapy. I didn’t realize it was a citrus fruit. I just knew I liked it. Comparing it to a lemon reminded me of the limas we have in Mexico that look like limes, but are distinctly different. Instead of being tart like a lime they are sweet with a complex aroma. You probably already knew that.

  • March 7, 2011 7:00am

    I use the zest and oil to fuse my baked goods for pastries, but I have never used the juice, but the vinaigrette you describe would be such a nice change from my boring Shiso dressing..

  • Asli
    March 7, 2011 7:15am

    I made your bergamot marmalade the other day – it turned out more like candied bergamot than like marmalade. So I added some more water and sugar and boiled again, and still it looks very candied and non-marmalade-y. Do you have any ideas as to what I might have done wrong?

  • ursula
    March 7, 2011 7:17am

    Thanks for doing all that sleuthing. That was an interesting read.

  • Noémie
    March 7, 2011 9:10am

    Hello David,
    Where I come from (Nancy), “les bergamotes” are small candies with bergamot essential oil.
    As a kid I reeeeaaaaally hated them, but now that I’m all grown-up and a tea lover, I cannot resist when I pass by the beautiful metal box…


  • March 7, 2011 12:45pm

    I found Bergamots in the market the other day looking for Seville oranges and was wondering what to do with them.

  • March 7, 2011 1:27pm

    For anyone who likes bergamot, try the recipe for Earl Grey Cupcakes from the book ‘Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery’ – beautiful to taste and to look at with lilac vanilla buttercream icing.

    (You can find the recipe online quite easily, but I’d recommend the book – lots of great recipes).

  • March 7, 2011 2:23pm

    thank you for thez clarification. The saga continues!!! I haveb een obsessed with these suckers from the day the housekeeper came and told me that “the special lemons are in the markets” two years ago. I live in Casablanca and I live for what was formerly known as Bergamot season. So in conclusion…what are what we calling these citron beldi? Country lemons!

  • Lee in London
    March 7, 2011 2:24pm

    I have came across both types of bergamot and was confused too. For the true bergamot comes into season in late December/January and the citron beldi also called bergamot lemons are in season in February. I made a batch of true bergamot & Seville marmalade a month ago and my friends gave it a resounding 2 thumbs up. I will make a new batch of marmalade with the season-end bergamot lemons & Seville to see the difference today. Another thing, the true bergamot rind makes a phenomenal addition to a warm sake cocktail. I also used it in a fish dish, but it can be overpowering. I am so glad I am not the only person who was stumped by the 2 bergamots.

  • March 7, 2011 3:50pm

    I confirm, in Italy té al bergamotto (tea) is very common and it is often used in perfumes.

  • daphne
    March 7, 2011 3:52pm

    I love these posts on citrics! And with your help I made candied oranges for the first time, I´m proud! I used a thermometer and the syrup point was exactly 110C like you said. Here is a picture of them: (hope it`s ok to do this here)


    Now I became my own slave and need to have them with my black coffee ;)
    I love your blog and posts on Paris.


  • Gina
    March 7, 2011 3:52pm

    Last year (or the year before?) Ladurée had a bergamot macaron that was heavenly. I rarely go in there, but when I do, I always hope for bergamot but haven’t seen it since. The store with the mini-Kouign Amann that you mentioned in the Marais has a bergamot macaron, but it wasn’t good at all (the Kouign Amann on the other hand–to die for!). In my opinion, Ladurée has the best caramel beurre salé macaron and the best bergamot. As for tea, a friend gave me some double bergamot Earl Gray once and it was amazing. Thanks to this post though, I’m going to search out my own bergamot and see what I might create! Merci David!

  • March 7, 2011 4:29pm

    Thanks for clearing up that mystery!

  • Seth Mariscal
    March 7, 2011 6:05pm


    Great article but an even great coincidence just occured. I was finishing reading through the comments (great comments everyone, BTW) when a friend sent me a link to a CNN health article where they quote your book! http://bit.ly/h0QDR2 (I shortened the link since it was a little long). Quite the serendipitous moment!

  • March 7, 2011 6:23pm

    Thanx for the post,untill now I wasnt familiar with Bergamont.

  • March 7, 2011 6:34pm

    We used to eat “citron doux” in Lebanon while kids. I buy them here in the US at the Arabic store. Also we have a great fondness for “bousfeir” or Seville oranges, from which grandmothers used to make marmelade and candied rind and orange blossom water. Now I hear it is all artificial flavors! Too bad.

  • March 7, 2011 6:58pm

    Thanks, David. I didn’t know those very same lemon looking fruits labelled “sweet lemons” at my local Chinese grocery were bergamots. Cool! I think I’m going to try candying or making marmalade with them. For some reason I always thought bergamots looked more like an orange.

  • March 7, 2011 7:12pm

    aw i love citrus! thanks for the interesting information.

  • March 7, 2011 7:53pm

    If I were to get my hands on a bergamot, I would make bergamot ice cream right away. Or perhaps I’d steep the zest with cream to make a bergamot chocolate ganache to roll into truffles, or bergamot pots de creme. Bergamot citrus bars or tart sound amazing! At Bi-Rite creamery here in San Francisco you can get bergamot-infused olive oil drizzled over your scoop of choice, and finished off with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. YUM! Thanks for the informative and inspiring post, David!

  • March 7, 2011 10:34pm

    I found a very small pile of bergamot oranges at my local natural foods store, and, though the price was comparable to that of a fine chocolate ($8 a pound!), I bought one and added its zest to a batch of lemon bars. The lemon bars were fantastic, but later, not wanting to waste the rest of the fruit, I tried to eat it and was rather taken aback by the intense sourness of the fruit’s flesh. I didn’t even make it through one bite. Next time, I might try to use the entire sour bergamot in a whole lemon tart, or perhaps even as a substitute citrus fruit in your whole lemon bars.

    I wrote about making lemon bergamot bars here: http://savorysaltysweet.com/2011/03/07/lemon-bergamot-bars/

  • March 8, 2011 12:15am

    Oh, wow, I’d would LOVE to wrap my hands and nose around – as well as into- a fresh bergamot. You folks in Europe and California make me envious!

    Bergamot is the top note in all my favorite perfumes, and I’m addicted to my morning pot of Earl Green tea from Rishi. Bright, clean, mysterious and intoxicating all at once.

    I wonder how the rind would behave dehydrated and ground to a powder?

  • Meredith
    March 8, 2011 2:03am

    I was so excited when I saw them at the market last month that I promptly bought 8 and followed your directions for marmalade–as it turns out these are the sour orange type, and completely unpalatable–even though I nearly doubled the sugar as I went along, feeling uneasy about the taste! The six jars have been sitting in my cupboard and I’m wondering what to do with them. Maybe just put them back in the pan with another couple of pounds of sugar and some orange juice?

  • math
    March 8, 2011 5:16am

    I am so excited to see this post – I just picked one up today (they have them at Eataly, in NYC…) and was trying to decide what to do with it! Thanks, David!

    My take: either the zest will go into a chocolate mousse, or it will be combined with other citrus in a lemon pudding cake, or it will go into pots du creme, or if I find nice berries, the zest and maybe some candied fruit will go into a strawberry mascarpone risotto… I would LOVE to hear other ideas.

    The poster who mentioned the sundae at bi-rite creamery with bergamot oil over chocolate ice cream with a sprinkle of Maldon salt hit it right on. Eating that sundae was a life-changingly delicious experience. I have since been adding strawberry ice cream to the mix, and it’s even better.

    For the person wanting to try Bergamot in NYC, I remember that the No. 7 restaurant in Brooklyn was making amazing drinks with bergamot juice a few years back.

  • shelleyorama
    March 8, 2011 7:40am

    That was a fun read, article + comments alike. At this point I must be either more or less confused (not yet sure which), but I feel I know the bergamot well enough now to stop and say hello if I should meet with one. Making a vinaigrette seems like the perfect way to introduce myself.

    Also, I have a hazy recollection of a food blogger who made a key lime pie substituting bergamot juice, and whose trick was to freeze and then thaw the juice before using it.

  • March 8, 2011 7:50am

    I’m from the northern region of Iran famous for its citrus varieties. We have both bergamot and sweet lemon. Bergamot is normally used as a sour agent in foods and sweet lemon is just juiced or cut in segments. I’ll be interested to see what you come up with for the sweet lemons, as they tend to go bitter very fast after they are cut open.

  • March 8, 2011 9:35am
    David Lebovitz

    Meredith: Unfortunately its hard to cover up bitterness. Some people salt or sugar citrus in advance and let it sit, although you’ve gone past that point. There might be some savory uses for the jam, like with stewed meats and such. I know that Mayan culture uses sour oranges in cooking as do many Arabic cultures, so you might want to scope out some recipes online by searching for ‘sour orange jam’ or Seville orange jam, and see what comes up.

    math: That ice cream does sound good! A reader above posted that in the Middle East, they chop up a bergamot, soak it in liquor, and use that to flavor things. So that might be a good way to use up your lone fruit.

    tasteofbeirut: It’s interesting how there are so many names for this one fruit, the bergamot on the right. I was confused until I did some research..

    Asil: It sounds like your sugar caramelized before the marmalade ‘set.’ Sometimes you can grate an apple or add some apple juice, which are both high in pectin, to the mixture and that cooked in the marmalade will help it set.

  • JenniferB
    March 8, 2011 11:49am

    Thanks muchly for the research results!

    My experience is limited to what Grand Frais (formally Espace Fraicher; Rhone Alps) has to offer every February. They come from Italy and are always yellow. Last year small and mild, this year large and very strong in aroma.
    The first time, 3 years ago, there was very little to find on the internet but I did come up with Greek ‘spoon fruit’ (www.kopiaste.blogspot.com) and a liqueur of bergamot in ouzo. Both are good but the liqueur was made with the mild ones and so is too subtle for my taste.
    This year I made marmalade following the English method having boiled the finely cut B. peel twice to tone down the flavour. The jelly part is lovely while the peel is a bit too chewy and still pretty challenging but very edible all the same. Next time I’ll pretreat the B. peel more often – also to tenderize it more.

    As for upping the pectin, always add the juice of a lemon or two and perhaps extra citrus seeds which I collect for this purpose. It’s also important to know that freezing destroys pectin so freezing citrus for making marmalade later will require extra pectin.

    The combination of bergamot and dark chocolate is sublime – the two types of bitterness, high and low notes, is a powerful marriage of flavours. I discovered this in a Fair Trade chocolate bar of dark chocolate with Earl Grey tea leaves. Great with coffee.

    I gave my dentist a jar of Seville orange marmalade (dental enamel challenge?) and his wife polished it off in 3 days before he had the chance to taste it!

  • March 8, 2011 12:26pm

    The white pith of the Sweet lime ( Citrus Limetta/ Musambi) -the greenish fruit on the right, with out the”nipple” is very thick and extremely bitter.
    That would explain why its unsuitable for marmalade.

    We usually discard the skin entirely as what we’re after is the sweet and delicately flavoured flesh which as Aparna mentioned, is without tartness, and used mainly in drinks or segmented, the thick membrane removed and eaten usually with a sprinkling of chaat masala. It tastes very different from both the orange and the lemon- not as sweet and not as tart.

    Since I guess its loaded with vitamin C it’s a favourite when you’re ill. People take loads of it to hospitals when visiting patients!

  • March 8, 2011 2:23pm

    I didn’t know the bergamot was a real fruit ! Thank you for this article and the comments !
    May I add that it is a candy speciality from Nancy, a wonderful city in the east part of France ?

  • March 10, 2011 3:44pm

    Got to learn to trust my own instincts more: I made a batch of your incredible (really wonderful and amazing) whole lemon bars using one bergamot. Or that was how it had been labeled. I was surprised that the bars weren’t more…bergamotty. The bergamot-inflected Russian tea cookies I made when they were in season last year were way more intense. Now I understand why!

  • March 10, 2011 9:37pm

    Loved all your citrus posts, wondering if you can help me find something like a myer lemon in Chamonix

  • March 12, 2011 2:29am

    Hi David,
    I cannot find bergamots… Pleaaaase, could you tell me where and when you find this so extraordinary fruit in Paris? Apropos, they broadcasted a very interesting TV report on Arte channel a litlle month ago.

  • March 12, 2011 8:43am
    David Lebovitz

    I found them at Naturalia, the health food store. However I also see them in the markets during their season, which seems to be January-early March.

  • March 13, 2011 5:21am

    I just made your marmalade but with meyer lemons and as I was testing it out pre kirsch and post kirsch I am extremely glad I listened to your recommendation. I am looking forward to using it in more sweets! Next year I will have to keep my eye out for bergamots!

  • Jeffrey Steingarten
    March 14, 2011 4:24am

    In Tunisia, dinner in a private house often concludes with several different species of citrus in bowls or just laid on the table, leaves intact and sometimes the branches as well. Most times of the year, four or more species will be in season. Years ago, Paula Wolfert and I, at such a dinner with an old family in Tunis, ate a fruit called bergamot (which she recognized from her many years in Morocco). The flesh and juice were neither sour nor full of flavor; but the skin exuded lots of bergamot oil, especially when we scraped it with our fingernails. Might this have been a third category of “bergamot” or do the non-real bergamots of Tunisia and Morocco have an oil with the unmistakable and powerful aroma of Earl Gray tea?

  • March 14, 2011 4:45am

    Ahhhhh, So that’s what they are. I’ve been afraid to buy them, lol.

    Now, our market is selling bags of Meyer lemons, do they compare to the bergamot?
    You see, I LOVE lemon. I put lemon in almost everything. Lemon is a BIG part of my cooking. I say that you can’t have too must lemon. Well, maybe in a Hollandaise. Anyway, you must be thinking that I’m comparing “apples & oranges” here. But I’m very intriged and learning from you… Lisa

    Now, back to reading that post you did about blogging (for the 4th time!)

  • March 14, 2011 4:47am

    Whoops! I spelled intrigued wrong….

    Lol, yes I have spell check!

  • Mahsa Taheran
    March 15, 2011 1:13am

    David, I hope everything gets better and you visit Iran one day. If you plan your trip in future, please let me know and be my guest.

  • March 15, 2011 5:59pm

    Sweet post. I just did a post on bergamot as well a couple of weeks ago, http://bangbangbroccoli.com/2011/02/25/bergamot/
    We do a couple of different things with bergamot, candy the zest, “confit” the supremes, make a whole fruit puree by blanching it in simple syrup three or four times, made a vinaigrette to dress sardines with.

  • March 16, 2011 8:15am

    I’m ashamed to admit I knew there is a citrus fruit called bergamot (well, it’s in Earl Grey tea, isn’t it), but never really thought about the specifics of that particular fruit. They look cute with their ‘nipple’, and I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for one when travelling to France next time..

  • March 18, 2011 5:14am

    I absolutely love bergamot scent/flavor and use the essential oil in all kinds of things, but I have never seen the actual fruit. Which is silly because I live in Italy. So thanks for posting this! I love your blog, I have been following you for a bit now, vicariously eating around Paris with you. I added a link to your blog on my own so I can send some more people your way!

    Congrats on your new paperback release!

  • March 18, 2011 8:55pm

    I drank bergamot tea in a Korean restaurant in Berlin once and loved it. Prior to reading your post I had no clue about bergamot and the fruit being called bergamot but being something else, therefore I’m not sure what was in that tea. But it was great…

  • March 25, 2011 8:32pm

    Our favorite use for bergamot is in cocktails! This is a recipe we came up with for a cocktail named the Risso:

    1.5 oz gin (Back River)
    .5 oz Pelinkovac
    .5 oz bergamot orange juice
    .75 oz Apricot Brandy.
    .25 oz. Simple syrup
    Bergamot orange oils

    Shake all ingredients with ice. Double-strain into chilled cocktail glass. Express oils from zest over cocktail. Discard zest.

    We have also been steeping some of the zest in grain alcohol to make some bergamot orange bitters. Has anyone else used bergamot in cocktails?

  • Elizabeth
    March 27, 2011 5:23am

    I’ve been wondering about bergamots forever! Thanks for clearing it all up.

  • Rosemarie Delaney
    March 28, 2011 7:04pm

    OOOH Greg, your Risso cocktail recipe sounds sublime. I shall have to search out neighbours with bergamot trees and hope they have some fruit left so I can make a whole bottle of your cocktail then that will see me through the long hot Cyprus summer by the pool……whew!

    Inspired by David’s Mum and her intuitive jams I melted down a kilo of fresh, early-produced strawberries, added sugar, lemon juice and stirred in several scoops of my homemade bergamot jam. A nice combination. The bergamot perks up the rather bland strawberry, which really isn’t so good being forced in hot-houses Does the god Pergamos have a connection with this fruit, or is my greek mythology a bit skewed? Love from the island of Aphrodite.