How to Grow and Enjoy Bergamot

Learn the benefits of growing bergamot for delicious, nutritous, bergamot tea.

| November/December 1979

Lately, more and more people have begun to understand just how limited — in both variety and nutritional value — our "modern" diets have become. This realization has sparked a new and widespread interest in the culinary and therapeutic uses of herbs, those plants which — although not well-known today — were, just one short generation ago, honored "guests" on the dinner tables and in the medicine chests of our grandparents' homes. In this regular feature, MOTHER EARTH NEWS examines the availability, cultivation, and benefits of our "forgotten" vegetable foods and remedies, and — we hope — help prevent the loss of still another bit of ancestral lore. 

The house we bought in the Adirondacks yielded many garden bonuses including a lilac bush, some raspberries, rhubarb, and a grapevine — but my husband and I weren't able, at first, to identify a big stand of handsome purple flowers growing in the weedy, damp back yard.

Luckily for us, these "mystery" plants were wild bergamot (Monardo fistulosa), and they turned out to be our biggest bonus "crop" of all!

Growing Bergamot for Sheer Joy

Even If the plant had nothing but its beauty to recommend it, wild bergamot would still be worth growing. The narrow tubular flowers, which bloom from July through September, range from maroon to magenta to lilac In color and resemble a somewhat disheveled chrysanthemum atop a two-foot high, erect stalk.

Since the herb is a member of the mint family, it has its relatives' square, hollow stem, shallow, dense root system and paired leaves, which are tinged with reddish-purple on their "under" surfaces.

The pretty plant — though not choosy as to where it grows — does prefer "wet feet" and partial shade. You should know, also, that growing bergamot from seed is a slow process, so it's best to start your crop with root cuttings. Simply divide the roots — at any time from early spring until late fall — remove any woody or blackened portions, and set the runners out 18 Inches apart.

7/30/2015 11:33:34 PM

Picked some today in Winnipeg ...your article is very helpful ....thanks !

4/14/2014 2:54:40 AM

The Bergamot in the costly tea blend is probably Oil of Bergamot, derived from an orange that grows in the south of France.

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