Calabria produces over 25% of Italy’s citrus fruits. It is home to two unique varieties – bergamot and cedro. You might be familiar with the first, but not the second!
This citrus fruit resembles a small orange. It grows only in Calabria. You can find it in the coastal strip that stretches from Villa San Giovanni to Gioiosa Jonica, and around Reggio Calabria.
It’s an evergreen citrus and varies in colour from green to yellow, depending on the ripeness. The pulp provides a very bitter and tart juice and is used to make syrup, candied fruit, as well as to manufacture citric acid.
The rind provides “green gold”, namely the PDO essential oil of bergamot, used in perfumery, tea and cosmetics worldwide.
Of more interest to me are the juice and the essence! The Italians immediately thought of adding it to gelato!
Bergamot ice cream has been the best seller in artisan gelato shops for some years now in Calabria. With a slightly sour, yet fresh and thirst-quenching taste, it is ideal on hot summer days in Calabria.
You can also buy a local drink called “Bergotto.” It’s non-alcoholic, organic and is incredibly refreshing when the weather is hot! It’s also included in lots of local cocktails such as Bergotto Spritz and our recipe for Bergotto Vodka.
We first came across this is our friend’s garden after she had just bought her house here. When we cut into what we thought was a lemon we were disappointed at the amount of the pith. We thought we’d harvested under ripe lemons!
However, after a bit of research, we found that what we’d picked was a “Cedro.” This again is only grown here in Calabria, and across the water in Sicily.
The fantastic thing is that you can eat the whole fruit; pulp, pith and skin. Each part of the fruit has a delicious lemony taste!
The desert industry used it grated to flavour creams, desserts and sorbets, or to make citron liqueur. It’s not just for sweets. Cedro is also perfect to pair with fish or to give a tart twist to cold pasta.
So, you can use it just like a normal lemon. We also cut the fruit into chunks, put it in the freezer, and we use it as ice cubes in our gin and tonics!