Although limited in its culinary uses, bergamot imparts a wonderful citrus-like flavor and fragrance that complements fruits and summer beverages and teas. At one time native Americans used it to season and preserve meats. At one time, it became popular as a substitute for tea in New England after the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
The flowers make an attractive garnish and can be crystallized. It is said a western species,
M. menthaefolia, can be used like oregano and the spicy flowers can be added to chili and salsa.
A Spanish botanist, Dr. Nicholas Monardes, likely call bergamot because of its fragrance which is similar to the small, bitter Italian bergamot orange. Bergamot oil, which is used in authentic Earl Grey tea, is extracted from this plant.
The flowers maybe scattered in salads and the leaves infused by simmering for 10 minutes in an enamel saucepan for greater flavor. Put fresh leaf into China tea for an Earl Grey flavor, into wine cups and into lemonade. Add sparingly to salads, stuffings, pork. Use for jams, jellies and bergamot milk; pour 1 cup boiling milk over 1 tablespoon dried or 3 tablespoons shredded leaves, steep for 5 – 7 minutes, strain and serve.