Earl Grey, anyone?
There is some controversy surrounding Earl Grey tea and how it came to be named after Charles Grey, who was the British Prime Minister from 1830-1834.
There are stories that the tea recipe was created by accident, that it was blended as a symbol of gratitude to Earl Grey for one of his men saving a Chinese man's son or that it was to suit the quality of the water where Earl Grey used to live.
Whatever the real story, Earl Grey tea combines bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia) with black tea to give it its distinct flavour and aroma.
Many modern-day Earl Grey blends use bergamot flavouring or essential oil, however, you can also make your own wonderfully fragrant Earl Grey tea using the intensely flavoured dried rinds of bergamot oranges. So if you're a lover of Earl Grey tea (or would like to make bergamot orange marmalade), then it's time to grow your own bergamot orange.
Bergamot orange trees are vigorous growers and can reach five metres tall, though can be kept smaller by pruning. They're hardy trees that need well-drained soil and a full sun position that receives at least six hours of sunshine a day. The fruit, that has skin the colour of lemons or limes, ripens during winter and early spring and is very acidic. Its tart juice can be used as a replacement for lemons.
When planting a new bergamot orange tree, or any citrus tree, improve the soil in the planting hole by mixing in a citrus organic-based plant food to help promote good early root growth. Water the new tree in well after planting.
Reapply plant food every eight weeks during the growing and fruiting seasons to encourage healthy leaf growth, a strong root system and lots of flowers and deliciously fragrant oranges.