The bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia or Citrus aurantium bergamia) is a small citrus fruit that only grows naturally along the coastline of Reggio-Calabria, from Villa San Giovani to Gioiosa Jonica. Legend tells that Christopher Columbus discovered the Bergamot orange in the Canary Islands, and then introduced it to the Spanish city of Berga (hence the name) from whence it arrived in Italy. Yet to this day, the fruit can only be found in Calabria, though the Bergamot plant blooms elsewhere along the Mediterranean, yielding fragrant orange blossoms. Supporting the claim of Spanish influence, the bergamot orange is most likely a genetic cross between the Seville or sour orange, and the sweet or pear lemon. The fruit itself is small and pear-shaped with a lemon-like peel. When eaten plucked fresh from the tree, the flavor of a bergamot is unique among citrus, and sightly less sour than a lemon. Even if you've never seen or heard of a bergamot orange, you may recognize its flavor from Earl Grey tea, in which it is an important component. In Italy, the peels are pressed to yield a high-quality essential oil, which can be used for a variety of purposes from perfume to aromatherapy to adding a hint of bergamot flavor to Calabrian dolci.
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