Bergamot is less well-known among the citrus plants. We reveal how to plant and care for the bergamot tree and how to use its flower fruits.
The bergamot is closely related to the lemon. Despite their identical ancestry, however, they are nowhere near as well known and widespread as their relatives.
Bergamot: origin and characteristics
The bergamot ( Citrus bergamia ) belongs to the genus of citrus plants (Citrus). Like the lemon, it was created as a hybrid of citric lemon ( Citrus medica ) and bitter orange ( Citrus x aurantium ). Their geographical origin has not yet been clearly clarified. It has been grown in Italy since the middle of the 17th century. It was also at this time that it was first described and was initially given the name Citrus bergamia.
Even today, bergamots are grown almost exclusively in Italy, more precisely on a narrow strip about 100 kilometers long on the coast of Calabria. Due to its special climate, this area is ideal for the cultivation of bergamot trees. Bergamots are also grown in some countries in Africa and South America.
The evergreen bergamot trees reach heights of up to 2.5 meters, depending on the variety. They are usually offered in the trade as a refined half-stem. The elongated bergamot leaves are dark green, smooth and shiny. In spring, the pure white bergamot flowers appear and give off a pleasant scent. The individual bergamot flowers are composed of four to five elongated petals.
Finally, in winter, the bergamot fruits, which weigh around 100 to 200 grams, ripen. The round, somewhat pear-shaped bergamots have slightly roughened, shiny, and often slightly ribbed skin. Their color changes from rich green to lemon yellow during the ripening process. There is a small protuberance at the end of the fruit.
Planting bergamot: everything about growing in pots
The bergamot does not tolerate frost and is not hardy in Germany. Like other citrus plants, it is therefore not suitable for growing in the garden. Bergamot trees planted in a tub, on the other hand, can easily be placed on the balcony or terrace in summer and returned to frost-free winter quarters in autumn. Depending on the region, the bergamot can stay outdoors from April / May to October / November. The citrus plant needs a sunny, sheltered, and warm location on the balcony or terrace. Before the temperatures drop into the single-digit range, they must be brought back into the house and overwintered in a bright place at around 15 ° C.
For the bergamot, choose a sufficiently large pot with a drainage hole so that excess water can run off when watering. For the bergamot tree to develop optimally, the plant needs a slightly acidic, nutrient-rich substrate with good water permeability. Special citrus earth is available in stores for this purpose. Alternatively, you can simply mix a suitable substrate yourself. Choose a peat-free potting soil, for example, our Gardender organic universal soil, and mix it with some sand. Then place the root ball in the planter and fill it up with substrate.
This is how you care for the bergamot
The bergamot is adapted to the Mediterranean climate. If it is well grown, it can withstand even longer periods of drought. However, since the soil in a planter dries out faster than natural soil, young bergamot trees, in particular, should be watered regularly. Be sparing when watering and make sure the leaves and flowers stay dry.
Bergamot trees have a high need for nutrients and should be fertilized regularly during the growing season from March to October. Liquid fertilizer is ideal for this. It optimally supplies your bergamot with all the necessary nutrients so that it can develop many flowers, powerful fruits, and strong roots. Fertilize the bergamot over the irrigation water every one to two weeks. The dosage is three to five milliliters of fertilizer per liter of water.
The bergamot grows very slowly and therefore rarely needs to be repotted. When the soil in the pot is completely rooted, the plant should move to a slightly larger planter. The right time for this is before the new budding in March or April. A drain hole must be available so that excess water can run off and no waterlogging occurs.
To get a compact and branched crown, the bergamot should be cut regularly. You can shorten the shoots growing out of the mold at any time. Larger pruning measures should be carried out in late winter after the fruit has been harvested and before the new shoots. During this time it is also important to remove dead and poorly growing shoots.
Tip: To protect the bergamot tree from pathogens, larger cuts should be sprinkled with charcoal ash and sealed with it.
Bergamot: This is how you harvest the fruit
The fruits of the bergamot ripen in the winter months and are ready for harvest between November and March. Then their peel has a lemon yellow color. The bergamots can be carefully picked.
This is how you can use the bergamot
The peel of the bergamot contains valuable essential oils. The bergamot oil obtained from it is used because of its pleasant scent in the cosmetics industry and for flavoring teas (e.g. Earl Gray) and sweets.
The most common uses of bergamot are:
- Bergamot oil (various uses, including flavoring teas, scented oil)
- Bergamot juice for flavoring dishes, pastries, and beverages
- Bergamot jam
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