Half a Hundred Herbs Week 32 – Bergamot

bergamotThis is magnificent, a cultivar called Fireball. It’s doing much better than any variety I’ve had before, which probably means we’ve had a better than average summer.

Bergamot isn’t native, having been introduced from American (where it had the engaging name of swampweed) in the sixteenth century, but it’s been a favourite ever since, and who can wonder with late summer colour like that. It is scented and vaguely minty, and was mostly used to make tea, or to jazz up a pot pourri. It’s very popular with bees and butterflies too.

When I first started learning about herbs, there was only one kind of bergamot, a bright red called Cambridge Scarlet, but breeders and developers have been at work and now there are lots, in pinks, purples red and white. There’s also a separate species called monarda citriodora – a lemon bergamotlemon bergamot 2taller, leggier and with a more citrusy scent. When I bought it, the label said it was a half-hardy annual, but nothing on line indicates that this is the case, and it certainly doesn’t look tender, or like any sort of annual. To be honest it looks tough as old boots. I’ve kept it in a pot, and I’ll cut it back later and overwinter it in the greenhouse. We’ll see what happens in the spring.

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