Bergamot is an unusual and very beautiful culinary herb. Don't confuse it with bergamot orange, from which it derives its common name.
Flowering bergamot plants
The bergamot is only native to North America.
Leaves and flowers.
Lamiaceae (mint family).
Flowers and leaves have an orange perfume, which is why the plant is named after the bergamot orange.
The genus name of bergamot, monarda, was given in honour of Nicholas Monardus, a Spanish botanist (1493–1588). Species name didyma refers to the Oracle of Apollo at Didyma in Greece. The origin of the name bergamot and other European variants (e.g. French bergamote, Italian bergamotta) is a Turkic word akin to Turkish bey-armudu "lord's pear" or "prince's pear", derived from Old Turkish beg "lord" or "ruler". It is also the source of the modern Turkish bey, used as part of personal names, cf. also the female form, begum "lady" or "queen".
Bergamot was used extensively by Oswego Indians and by settlers to the New World. It was used as a mint-flavoured substitute for Indian tea following the Boston Tea Party, hence the name "Oswego tea" in modern American English and thé d'Oswego in French.
The leaves have culinary use in both savoury and sweet dishes, including pork, veal, vegetable dishes, fruit dishes and ices. It is also used in large quantities in American meatloaf. In addition to use of the leaf, the flowers can be finely shredded and incorporated into salads.
The "mint tea" made from bergamot leaves is said to be good for fever, stomach problems and restful sleep. Besides its culinary and medicinal qualities, the flowers and leaves of bergamot are good ingredients for potpourri and the oil of the plant has been an ingredient in perfumery.